Tobold's Blog
Saturday, May 12, 2012
On grunts and guilds

I do agree with Rohan's theory that smaller groups for endgame activity lead to smaller guilds and ultimately to less interest of everybody in the endgame. He says:
First, and most importantly, there's a lot more room for "grunts" in a large guild. Grunts are average players who like playing the game, but don't really want to take on extra responsibility like the officers. If you take a 30-man raid size, and break it into 10-mans, I think you end up losing the bottom 10 players, just because there really isn't room for them in the subsequent guilds that form. I think a lot of people just want to play the game, and are perfectly willing to follow orders from someone more dedicated.
Now I do think that any division of people into two classes, like "top raiders" and "grunts", is bound to fail. Things are never black & white, there are just endless scales of grey. But the argument still works: A larger raid group allows for a larger guild covering a wider scale of grey tones. And that would create more interest in the endgame, and more social cohesion.

But whatever scale you use, the raid endgame model has the fundamental flaw that whatever the size of the raid, the rational decision is to take the top X available with you on the raid, and leave the bottom Z behind. There are other ways, for example in games like A Tale in the Desert. Not only can you be in several guilds in that game, but also everybody can contribute in his own way to the guild's projects. If the guild needs a huge amount of bricks for a project, for example, everybody can contribute at his own pace. And while the bottom Z contribute much less than the top X, they still make a positive contribution, and thus the guild still has an interest in keeping them around.

If Rohan is right and the endgame exclusion of the "grunts" is causing subscription MMORPGs to decline, just upping the raid size might not be enough to solve the problem. I think we would have better luck with a MMORPG in which the endgame was inclusive, not exclusive. Where everybody would make some positive contribution to his guild, even if some did less than others.

Size is certainly an effect to be taken into account. And it is also a good idea to have sth to do for players of different quality within the same group. But otoh: small guild= more personal social experience. In a 40-group, you couldn't talk much, remember? But I guess 40 was really the extreme.
smaller guilds decreases social connections too. FFxi also lets people be in multiple groups. People usually have a social group and then multiple event groups. Means people know lots of people. Surely the lesson of facebook is that maximum grouping maximises stickyness.
"I think we would have better luck with a MMORPG in which the endgame was inclusive, not exclusive. Where everybody would make some positive contribution to his guild, even if some did less than others."

After many years of raiding with large guilds I have moved to smaller guilds and a better social experience.

This is a prime reason why I am looking forward to Guild Wars 2 which has no endgame and favors rich content throughout the game. Everything you participate in with GW2 is inclusive whether you group up or not.
Rift does this to some extent with their raid rifts, one of the features I most liked about the game. We needed 10 effective raiders but anyone else up to about 20 could fit into the raid without dragging us down (except by loot dilution which I wasn't too worried about).

Eve also does it well for the most part depending on Alliance culture. Some Alliances are all "yeah, just come it's fine if you're in a frigate" and some corps are "How dare you show up to the fleet with a minorly variant fitting on this obscure ship type!"
It's actually quite interesting to see the to-ing and fro-ing between fleet doctrines built around the grunts (eg Goons) and fleet doctrines built around the Fleet Commander (eg BoB). Contrary from what you would expect from raiding in WoW the elitists aren't more effective.
When I still played WoW, I only had 2 friends that I played with. Doing 25-man and even 10-man raids did not increase the number of friends I played with, it increased the number of strangers my friends and I were forced to play with.

This only served to prevent any social experience. We could not talk with each other, chat needed to stay clear for the raid leader.

Doing 25-man raids is socially no different from soloing in a questing zone with 24 other people who happen to be in the zone. I am individually doing my part, but there is no meaningful social interaction. There cannot be, with that many people.

Make groups smaller, not bigger. There is a reason Trade chat is not regarded as the best social experience available in WoW.

Trying to ram as many people together as possible is like friending as many people as possible on Facebook until you have thousands. These people are not your friends. This is not a social experience.
I absolutely agree on the part that dividing players in a guild into grunts and top raiders can form an exclusionary experience. I believe many of Gevlon's theories of raiding revolved around a similar idea, and although they can get results, deriving fun and socialization from that is difficult.

But I'm not here to criticize Gevlon. I did want to comment on having an inclusion-based end-game, and I wanted to chime in that raiding is not the answer. Offering options for end-game that do not require outside reading is the answer. Raiding and PvPing are all about player skill, and those with skill will succeed and have fun, and those without will not succeed. Which is why options must be created to cater to the crowds that just want to play the game.

I hate to use the term "casual" to describe that crowd, but it is the best one to use at the moment. WoW is addressing some of these issues with dungeon challenges and pet battles, but whether or not it will help remains to be seen.
I think Rohan's theory is somewhat plausible at least insofar as it affects the nature of gameplay. (I'm not so convinced it has much effect on subscription numbers.)

As for 'everybody contributing' the problem is that it's rather hard to combine that with a game involving some degree of challenge and skill.

Say you had a RL guild whose mission was to climb Mt. Everest and similar peaks. Some of your members are not very fit and have no head for heights, or tend to make mistakes like forgetting to knot ropes properly. Now these folks can contribute to the effort by porting supplies to base camp and such like, but that is like people with low output or who stand in the fire making potions for the raiders in WoW. You can't have them in the team that actually goes to assault the summit.
Surprisingly, EVE Online is more similar to Tale than WoW on this field: you can always use an extra pilot in PvP battles, even if his contribution is much less than the others.
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