Tobold's Blog
Friday, March 05, 2010
The garden gnome painting club

Imagine you are the president of your local garden gnome painting club. The club meets regularly for sessions where the members sit together and paint garden gnomes. Every year there is a charity event, with the painted garden gnomes being sold for charity after an exposition. Now your garden gnome painting club has lost some members who quit the hobby or moved away, and you are interviewing potential new candidates. What do you look for?

Given the club's activities, it is obvious that what you'll be looking for is people who are nice and friendly, and get along well with the others during the regular painting sessions. Being dedicated and turning up regularly is certainly a plus. But how skilled the candidate is at actually painting garden gnomes is only of secondary importance. The club is there to do things together, to share a hobby, not really to overcome some specific challenge.

Now lets move to another example: This time you are the coach of a high-class soccer club, like Manchester United, looking for players you could buy from another club. What would you be looking for in that case? Obviously the selection criteria a very different. The soccer club needs to win games, and can only put 11 players on the turf. Thus soccer skill is of utmost importance. A minimum of teamwork is required, but you'd rather take a prima donna playing great soccer than a nice guy with mediocre skills.

And now to move from those examples to the world of MMORPG: Is a MMORPG guild more like a garden gnome painting club, or is it more like a soccer club?

The first guild I was in for a prolonged time was in Everquest. In Everquest it took 2,000 hours to reach the level cap, and most of the players I was guilded with didn't count on ever arriving there. Thus there was no raiding at all for us, just playing together (soloing was hard in EQ), chatting, having fun. It was definitely a garden gnome painting club. During my years in World of Warcraft I was for a time member of a hardcore raiding guild (I got up to Nefarian in BWL with them), and that was more like a soccer club. They didn't invite me into the guild because I'm such a nice person, but because they needed a holy priest, and had in a test raid seen that I was performing my job well. When I took a break from WoW, I was immediately kicked from the guild.

Where MMORPGs have a problem is that you can't be a member of both the garden gnome paining club *and* the soccer club. Guilds often try to be both, and then frictions arrive between the two parts, leading to guild drama. As the examples showed, already the hiring requirements are very different, and while there is a certain overlap in activities (run heroics to have fun vs. run heroics to gear up), the ultimate purpose is a very different one, and at some point the needs of the two sides diverge. You can work around that limitation by having a main in a raiding guild, and an alt in a social guild, but even that is often frowned upon by the raiding guild.

What would be a lot better is if your social network had a different structure from your "professional" association in the MMORPG. Instead of having guilds, a game would have one social network structure for people to hang out with together, and a goal-oriented structure for people to raid together. Those wouldn't even need the same tools, the raiding structure might have tools like a raid calendar or DKP system that would be useless for the social network structure. Instead of having to switch to an alt in a different guild to hang out with your friends, you could be a member of both simultaneously. The big advantage would be that your network of friends would remain unchanged even if you decided for some reason to quit your raid structure to join a different one more appropriate to your dedication and skill.

In short, I think that guilds are trying to combine two functions that aren't always all that compatible with each other, and we would be better served if these two functions were split up into two independant structures.
I used something like this for a while. Guild was for raiding and then I had a friends list and private channel for friends.
Another solution may be to let players join multiple guilds at the same time. That way they get all the functionality to do what they please, but the players don't have to pick one type of guild over another.

Why not be in 3 guilds or 5? If you find a group of players that are fun to be with or play with you should be able to easily stay in touch with them.

Although I know Blizzard will never drop raid lockout timers I think it would solve a lot of problems with having to choose one guild over another. If you could reset your raid at any time you could play with anybody at any time.
So far the garden gnome painting club part has been implemented using custom chat channels, forums, instant messaging applications and social networking sites. The out-of-game part is in a pretty good shape right now. Steam, XFire, XBox Live and PlayStation Network do their part in cross-game integration, while Raptr and GamerDNA do cross-platform. But what I would like to see is a way to blur the line between being in-game and out-of-game. Syncing friend lists between Facebook and XBL was the first step, and I hope that COSMOS/Eve Gate is the next one.

That said, all that integration is going to need some privacy controls as well. Especially for Eve, where adding your enemies to your buddy list is standard practice. If you know that the enemy's fleet commanders aren't even online, then it's a safe bet that nothing major is about to happen.
This is an interesting idea. Social networking sites (such as Facebook) utilise a similar concept in that you can be part of several networks.

I like the idea but I don't think it can be implemented in WoW due to it's game design. I believe that WoW was designed to be a raiding game and that the social aspect just sort of exploded.

In the future, perhaps a game could be designed with the 'social' and 'professional' aspect as separate entities.
Azzur, I don't see why it couldn't be implemented in WoW.

They'd probably want to put some sort of limit on the number of networks you could join, just to keep the UI under control, but apart from that, why not?

Forming a network would take a modicum of effort (like forming a guild: a token cash expense, plus signature requirement). Basically, the network would provide what a guild provides now: memberlist showing who's online, dedicated chat channel. Whilst guilds, as we know, are going to change in Cataclysm to provide rather more functionality.
I'd agree with Void here - some kind of multiple guild membership may help to solve the problem: not everybody fits neatly into the "only interested in raiding" or "only interested in socialising" categories.

Putting it in your terms, maybe some footballers enjoy painting gnomes. Why should their club stop them?
Sooo, are you saying you want Blizzard to add a Facebook-plugin ? :)

And maybe enhance the dungeon-finder to "friend-finder" ? [using your facebook friends :) ]

So when you log in and click the dungeon-finder with the friend-finder you're thrown in a random group of -people you know- , without even being in a guild-structure ?

Nothing in WoW needs to change to suit both needs. If someone is interested in raiding they should join a raiding guild and have a chat channel where they can talk to their friends in other guilds. Is a tabard and guild bank really necessary to chat with your friends? /join "channel name" is all it takes to create a channel that you and your friends can share throughout the game world; you can even set a password to prevent people you don't know from interrupting conversation. The guild as a social tool is a kinda outdated idea.
"If someone is interested in raiding they should join a raiding guild and have a chat channel where they can talk to their friends in other guilds."

What if all your friends are in one other guild? Can you really persuade them all to join a custom chat channel and use it just to talk to you when they could just use guild chat? (This sort of thing does happen when you leave a friends guild to go raid.)
I believe that the ability to join multiple joins can be practically implemented.

What I wish to point out that the philosophy of being part of multiple guilds is contrary against the basic design of the game.

WoW was designed ground-up as a PvE game focusing on end-game raids. The guild is a structure to facilitate like-minded players in achieving this goal.

The concept of multiple guilds will be contrary to this design philosophy and invalidate concepts such as guild loyalty, etc. WoW was not designed for the social aspect, but it has exploded.

Tobold's suggestion focused on how guilds needs to be distinctly "social" and "professional" for this to work. For example, the "professional guild" will have a dkp chart, raiding calendar, etc. On the other hand, a "social guild" may have a meeting hall, etc. Players may then only belong to one professional and one social guild.

My suggestion is just a basic example. I believe that the professional and casual aspect needs to be differentiated even further.

Thus, I believe that multiple guilds cannot be implemented into WoW. A new game will be needed to be designed from the ground-up with distinctly separate social and professional functions.
>The guild as a social tool is a kinda outdated idea.

False. A guild is three primary things: Shared inventory; chat channel; friends list. You could say four and include the calendar, but inviting a guildie is not much different from inviting a random scrub to an event.

People who think that a "friendly social" guild could be reduced to a private chat channel are probably right. I take it a step further: We could reduce a hardcore raiding guild to a chat channel, as well.

Let me adapt your phrase to my own ideas, then: "The guild as a tool is a kinda outdated idea."
Darn you, no-edit-button.

I forgot one thing: A guild is social status, both locally and globally.

Locally: Inside of a social guild you have ranks. Higher rank typically means you've brown-nosed the gm more, yet everyone still flaunts their rank once they get it. It must mean a lot to them to rub it in others' faces so often.

Globally: Outside of the guild, simply being in one gives a sense of betterment than not being in one. Why is it when someone sees you guildless they feel they should whisper you asking if you want to join? Why don't people ever look at the guildless guy and go "wow, I wish I was lonely like him."

Assuming that raiders care most about getting the boss kill, and Digital Peen Size is an after thought, the raiding conglomerate will sort itself out. Troublemakers will either remove themselves to pursue greener pastures or misbehave enough to warrant their forceful removal. You wouldn't even need a GM because their performance (whether it be below tanks on dps, standing in the fire, kiting adds onto healers) would stand out and everyone [who puts boss kill before all else] will also want them to be removed.

I take my phrasing a step further than I already have: "The guild as a raiding tool is a kinda outdated idea."

But then, once upon a time, Gevlon ran this EoE instance, paying his precious gold for epics. In a post shortly after, he made an interesting observation that the people who show up in a guild for the weekly naxx farm (despite offspec or no upgrades) are the ones to keep around, because they're the most dedicated. He showed then that simply being in the guild doesn't mean you're raider material, it just means you passed the 'no hunters w/spellpower gems' test and know how to not put 'lol' at the end of every sentence. This observation could be proven again and again by documenting the progression of players who join raiding guilds but don't do the farm raids. My hypothesis is that they don't last as long as old-content-farmers do.

I feel this observation validates my claim that the WoW-format guild is not the ideal structure for a raiding core.

What I don't know is if it's any better for a social guild. With a channel, you can /leave at any time, if someone you don't like starts saying things you don't like. In a guild, /gquit'ing typically has dire consequences, or at least defamation.

I hope I covered my bases.
Where MMORPGs have a problem is that you can't be a member of both the garden gnome paining club *and* the soccer club.

Sure they can, and my Guild uses titles to denote raiders from non-raiders. The issue here is one of civility, and how raiders view non-raiders and vice versa. Since there is no competition between the raiders and non-raiders where gear is concerned, we dont have those types of drama/issues.

When raiders arent raiding they are helping the non-raiders with premade dungeon groups, and when the non-raiders arent..well, not raiding, they are helping the raiders do dailies and providing profession services like JC'ing and Enchanting..ect.

The garden Gnome painting club can take just as much pride in their work as the soccer club can theirs. The issues you talk about are all social in nature, meaning they can be all but eliminated with the application process and the use of probationary periods.
one thing final fantasy always had right. "Guilds" are attached to physical items in the game that look like pearls. You have to carry them around, they take up bag space.
When you "equip" them on the guild screen you're 'in' that guild. People tend to have a social pearl and ones for other high-level activities.
There is a huge flaw in your proposition that "you can't be a member of both the garden gnome painting club *and* the soccer club".

Your *character* can't be a member of both but *you* certainly can. When I played Everquest as my main MMO I played on more than half a dozen servers concurrently; on each server I had many characters. Characters were in different guilds, sometimes several guilds on the same server.

I was also in chat channels that operated on cross-guild lines as a quasi-guild structure, organising groups, dungeon runs, helping with epic quests and so on. Chat channels in EQ operate across servers (indeed channels operate across all SoE games now) so I could actively participate in this "gnome painting club" even while playing on other servers or in other games.

I began by saying that your character can't be a member of both types of organisation, but actually even that isn't true. We had members in that channel from big raiding guilds and from small family guilds. While the characters from the small guilds couldn't really go raiding with the big boys, those "soccer stars" certainly could, and did come gnome
painting with the rest of us, and they loved it.

Your proposition may or may not be true for WoW, which has very limited structures for social interaction compared to other games, but it has never been true in other MMOs I've played.

And when did it ever take "2000" to get a character to the level cap in Everquest? I hit the various level caps when they were 50, 60 and 65 with multiple characters, which is presumably through the period you are describing. It was slow by modern standards but never anything like 2000 hours slow. Back in 2000 it was generally reckoned you could solo to the level cap in three months, and in normal group play you'd better than halve that.

When new servers started and there was a "race to cap" I don't remember it ever taking more than a couple of weeks for the first max level to appear.
Back in 2000 it was generally reckoned you could solo to the level cap in three months, and in normal group play you'd better than halve that.

I think you are mistaken. Back in 2000 most character classes couldn't possibly solo to the level cap at all in Everquest, only druids and necromancers got past level 20 solo. And it took me 19 months to reach level 42 with my highest level character. Okay, I had several alts, but nobody I knew leveled to 60 in EQ in three months.

I can't find the data right now (old information vanishes on the internet), but I think the 2000 hour to level cap average came from a Nick Yee survey.
BTW the Nick Yee survey for World of Warcraft in 2005 revealed average time to level 60 as 300 hours. Which, at 20 hours per week, is already over 3 months. Are you telling me that you leveled faster in EQ than in WoW?
Good points; I really like the idea. Especially since being very good and very pleasant to be around usually aren't in the same person.

I also see a third dimension. Literally guilds; i.e. for professions.

A "progression" guild raiding at my level/pace

A "friends" guild

And commerce: say a guild where all the incriptionist, alchemists and herbalists could interact; or leatherworkers and skinners.

I would say that even in the sports example, the personality is pretty important. And I expect more HC guilds fall apart due to personality and drama than being unable to get out of fire.

One of the big worries I have about Cata are the "stay in guild" patterns. Won't all my crafting alts be screwed under the new system? we shall see.
They way my current guild handles this is through our use of the ranking system.

They have set up the ranks in a way so that the "casual" members of the guild have a seperate rank. These are broken up further into 3 ranks that include casual members, alts, and friends of the guild.

Higher up are the guild recruits, backups/new raiders, core raiders, and finally officers/guild master.

This works really well for our guild because it allows our progression raids to continue on the pace that makes them competitive and at the same time we can have a casual and fun environment.

Once a week a special raid is set up and led by many of the officers and raiders especially for the casual members of the guild. This raid is fun for both sides of the guild because the casuals all get to raid together and the officers and raiders get a fun raid without all the worries of their main progression raids, along with being able to bring their alts.

What really works great with this system is that our guild will turn to our casual ranks for recruitment. If a casual players wishes to join the progression raids and has shown that he/she is good and competent in the weekly casual raid they can be promoted and join the ranks of the regular raiders. So in this way we basically have internal recruitment and rarely have to look outside of the guild for talent.

So I guess in a way you could say we have formed our own little social network within the guild. Creating essentially two sides to the guild that work together in order to accomplish each others goals and maintaining guild unity.
Third option - you're the director on a commercial, non-Hollywood film project. Do you prioritise the guy with social skills or the guy with technical skills?

Well, you want the best of both. But in almost all cases (excepting hundred-million-dollar budgets - I don't have the experience to say how they work) you want to prioritise the guy who will do his job cheerfully, cooperatively, and with a will no matter whether he 100% agrees with the instructions he's been given.

To my mind, the months-long grind of running a raiding guild is more similar to a long-term cooperative project like a feature film. Tech skillz are definitely necessary, but star-level social skills will do more to get you to the finishing line.
This is a really important idea. This first wow clone that is able to pull this off will beat WoW.

Unless new battle net does this (it might).

A chat channel along is not good enough any more.
I agree with Nathan. Bllizzard is going in the totally wrong direction with Cataclysm trying to bind players even more strongly to their guilds. It will create more drama, not less, even if it discourages player movement.

It's an analog of design in general for software (or anything). One theory is where you try to make the user adapt to the design.

Then there is the idea that designed should adapt to let users do what they want to do. To the extent that this second approach is technically feasible, it always produces better results.

Blizzard is going the wrong way, it's reacting to users who want more flexibility in their social networks by trying to bribe/force them to live with what's already on offer. Bad move, IMO.

BZZZZZ I'm sorry that is an incorrect opinion.

Vanilla WoW (that would be the ground floor of this great design scheme you are talking about) had raids but very few people participated. The stats say that what 1% made it to Naxx?

WoW was designed to be a classic MMO and take the classic raid encounters to the next level. The classic MMO had a major emphasis on social interaction and a minor one on raiding, because so few could do it.

WoW has changed, yes, raiding is the norm now. However don't go around spouting off that WoW was designed from the ground up to be what it is today.

EQ History Lesson
Tobold is correct, or atleast more accurate. I was in a raiding guild with a 65 Enchanter and 2 alts a 55 Necro and a 55 Beastlord.

You COULD NOT solo in EQ past 20 on anything other than a Necro or Druid unless you were twinked. Monks, Rangers and Shadowknights could if they had the Fungi Tunic and bummed buffs off an Enchanter and Cleric.

On average it took 12 months to reach level 60. That isn't played time, that is legth of subscription. My Enchanter at level 65 had 400+ played days while my Beaslord had 3 days played. (He was powerleveled and twinked like a god)

2000 hours is a good average for hitting level 60. Though I would guess 1250 or so to hit level 50.
Sorry if I come off rude about EQ but I was that 1% that did and killed every raid boss through Gates of Discord.

I began playing EQ in November 1999 and apart from one break of six months I've been playing it ever since.

I soloed for much of the first two years I played, although not exclusively. I didn't say that *any* class could solo to the level cap at any time in EQ's history, but from the start many could and did, including Druid, Necro, Mage, Bard and Enchanter. Later on Beastlords also came in as great soloers.

My druid reached the level cap of 50 fairly easily with a mixture of soloing and grouping. She's only 60 now, after nearly ten years though.

My first characters to reach level cap, when the level cap was 60, were actually a gnome cleric followed by an ogre SK. They mostly grouped to do that and the 50s were very, very slow. But not 2000 hours slow.

It generally took somewhere around 4 hours to do one bubble in the 50s, grinding in a group. That's about 20 hours to a level, a couple of hundred hours to do all of the fifties. It was usually reckoned that 51 - 50 took as long as 1 - 50 combined, so that's 400 hours to level cap.

When they moved the cap to 65 it took me a week or so to catch up. Mrs Bhagpuss did all five levels on one Saturday afternoon in a group in Bastion of Thunder.

I don't play as much as I did, and my current highest character is a Beastlord just short of 84. I always loved soloing in EQ, which I still consider the best MMO to solo in that I've played. Not the easiest, but the most satisfying. Raid content I can't comment on.
In Cataclysm they're adding multi-guild functionality to the calendar system. People will be able to have their cake and eat it too.

As for my opinion, water finds its own level. There are plenty of guilds filled with people only playing to raid, there are plenty of guilds filled with people who prefer to just hang out. There are plenty of guilds who strike a balance between the two, whether formally or informally.

Most of the time the problem is player-centric. If you're truly in an environment that doesn't suit your approach to the game, the best thing you can do for everyone is change guilds. Most problems arise either from raid-centric players feeling obligated to remain in a social guild, or social players feeling obligated to remain in a raid-focused guild.

The only people who have a tough balancing act are those guilds in-between, and I feel the worst for them.
You provide a lot of stats but they're incorrectly interpreted.

1% made it to original Naxx doesn't mean that it wasn't designed for raiding. What that stat means is that the raiding progression path was too difficult.

It was only because of it's enormous success that the developers decided that WoW can be so many things to other people - arenas, BGs, social guilds, etc. But the game wasn't designed to support such structures in the first place.
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