The Guild Leaders Nightmare? Or Blessing?
Arena Net has been making huge waves in the gaming industry with their sequal to their first major success with Guild Wars 2. The first of these major changes is the excommunication of the Holy Trinity by getting rid of the notion that a game needs to be built around a tank, a healer and a DPS in order to do any type of group activities. The second is the primary focus of this article, the guild system. In Guild Wars 2, the guild system is getting a huge make over that essentially disrupts the entire scheme of things. In a traditional sense, guilds in every mainstream MMO has been 1 guild per character. If you wanted to join another guild, you either had to make a new character or leave your old guild to join the new one. In Guild Wars, guild membership was account bound so that you no longer had to worry about someone being online to invite your low level alt into the guild. But this meant that all of your characters had to be in the same guild, so the only way to change this was to leave the guild and join another one. So far this news has caused a lot of contention and stirring about in my current guild in which I am the 2nd in command. One thing is certain and that is the purpose of guilds is to surround yourself with people who you care about, or share a common interest or goal.
Guild Wars 2 is taking a hybridization approach that potentially originated from Final Fantasy XI. In that game, the guild membership (known as Linkshells) is not restricted to account and only character. In addition to this, any of your characters can join as many number of guilds as they desire. This notion of anyone can join any number of guilds has been creating huge stirs in the community. While most of the speculations and opinions about this system is negative, these view points are the cause of change in the norm. As most people who play MMOs play World of Warcraft, Rift, Everquest and anything other than Final Fantasy XI (sadly, this game just never picked up for anyone other than the niche group that still plays it), changing is hardly ever welcome. I find this type of phenomenon quite interesting as being a MMO player, we as a whole should be used to huge changes with hot fixes and major patches that typically uproot any strategy and comfort zone that we find ourselves in. But, even then, change is the main factor in people rage quitting their game just because the development team decided to nerf their favorite class.
Now, just being able to join any number of guilds is not the reason for people starting to riot in the streets, it is that you can only represent one guild at a time (if you even choose to represent a guild at all). So, while you can be a member of 50 guilds, you can only represent one of those 50 guilds at any given time and whatever guild you are representing will earn influence points from your activities (a new type of currency that one uses to buy things for their guild, such as bank storage and perks). I know when I first heard this new, I suddenly became very worried about how the system will take place. Would this be the end of raiding for semi-casual or semi-hardcore guilds? What about just trying to do something random? If all of your membership is busy doing something else with their other guilds, then what is the point of having your own? From a leadership standpoint, this is a nightmare to overcome. Most of us are used to having some sort of rigidness in their guild system. Some type of loot distribution system, a schedule for all the guild events and raids, a series of requirements for raiding or PvPing. As both a member and a leader, I just became accustomed to this type of system because I wanted to raid and it was something that I just had to deal with. But in Guild Wars 2, this all changes. So what does this mean?
The first thing is that this type of system is going to completely require guild leaders to rethink their strategy. As in other games, a rigid schedule and system of rules was required to keep order and keep players. However, in this new system, that will only deter people from actually participating. If you make some type of exclusivity rule in which your members are not allowed to join other guilds, then you might as well count that person out (granted, there should always be a rule to represent the guild you are doing an activity with). From a leadership standpoint, this means that each guild leader must come up with a new type of system that keeps players wanting to participate in their guild and earn influence for them and not some other people. Since even the loot system in being revamped to allow everyone to receive a token for boss kills, a loot distribution system is completely moot. Next up is a type of attendance requirement, well those are great and all, but if it is too rigid then people will just leave. On the other hand, if it is too light, then they might just never show up. So do you have an attendance requirement? The answer is probably, but not a method to keep players active. Rather than find a means of keeping players, guild leaders are now forced to find ways of creating an atmosphere in which people will find enjoyable to their experience, because if they don’t, then there will be no reason for that player to stay if they can find a similar guild with the same goals, but a better atmosphere.
This leaves us with one last option. Goals. Yes, those dastardly little things in which we all strive for at one point in our life or another. With the multi-guild system that Guild Wars 2 has, it leaves us with only 1 real possibility to keep members interested and that is focused goals. This is a type of system that destroys super guilds and encourages niche guilds that focus on one type of play style. Role Players can join a guild of people who only want to role play, and when they are done with that, switch over to their PvP guild and decimate their enemies along side their companions in TWC (WvWvW or Tri-World Combat) or structured PvP. Others can join a hardcore raiding guild and then switch over to their social guild whenever they no longer feel like or want a break from that type of atmosphere. People can join a casual PvP guild, a social guild, a hardcore PvP guild, a Raiding guild and a crafting guild with no problems. Hell, one could even join an LFG guild so that when you want to do a dungeon, you just switch over and find a few other people. Because of all this, super guilds that do everything no longer have a place and will only decay as people no longer need to spend that type of time or investment into a singular super power. Instead, we might see a phenomenon that instead of a single super guild but multiple subsidiaries of a single super guild. Just as guilds are now, they only have one focus. Ever wonder why the top PvE guilds are also no the top PvP guilds? Because super guilds can exist, but they take a ton of micromanaging and currently only few exist. Because you no longer have to have a PvP character and a PvE character to enjoy those aspects with fellow guild mates (which is awesome in so many respects), players will find themselves doing more on less characters (unless of course they love alts) which, for someone like me who hates leveling past the first character, is a god send disguised as a simple premise.
While also being a nightmare, this system is also a hidden blessing that few people actually realize. Being a niche guild accomplishes something that I wish was not present in guild management, and that is the management of the guild. Single guild systems tend to have this icky side effect of becoming another job in addition to being in a game. And depending on the schedule, being a guild leader can be a full time job on top of your full time job on top of your full time job as a raider in a progression guild. As only a 2nd in command, this has a nasty tendency to devour my free time and isn’t necessarily the most fun. It is, however, very rewarding when things go very well. In my days of RIFT, I have been a prominent officer of 2 guilds, one was Sweet Memories and my current one is Steel Dawn. In Sweet Memories, there was a lot of side work to being an officer on top of my duties as the guild website moderator. The guild ran very much like a business except you never really got a break from it unless you didn’t show up. I set up the raiding schedule, ran the raids and did a good chunk of working out a system for the raids. However, when all that work was done and the first raid we did was a success (player base was very much lacking in skill here) and I felt rewarded for all of my efforts because we had a good time. Or, at least I did and considering there were more people that had shown up for the next one, I take it that people liked what happened. However, that guild took a turn for the worse after a messy mishap with the co-guild leader and it somehow turning from a semi-casual guild to a totalitarian hardcore guild that never got anywhere. That is when I left and joined up with Steel Dawn. That story does have a point and that point is that this new system will no longer require that much work and time investment into the guild anymore. Because the player base can be as fickle and flakey as they want, guilds have to only come up with a type of niche that they can fill and then continue to fill it. So no more codes of conduct, no more guild constitutions, no more paperwork! Now even the guild leadership can have fun in a game!
This type of system also makes recruiting significantly easier as players can now “try out” guilds as they please without leaving the comforts of their current one. In the real world, Googles first phone, The Nexus One, did horribly in sales despite it actually being a very good phone. The reason for this is that Google only sold the phone online. In a world where you can go into any electronics store and pick up one of hundreds of different smart phones that all offer different things, people want to touch their phone, feel the weight, see what it is capable of. Only selling the phone online caused its customers to be very set on their decision to buy a phone they have never even seen in person and all potential customers were driven away because they could just go play with a different phone and be more certain then that of a website. If you are in a PvP guild and want to try out a raiding guild, then now you can without leaving your PvP guild. Then if you do like raiding, you are now a member of two guilds that offer two very different types of activities. Or if you don’t like the raider life style, then you can quit the guild without ever having to ask one of your friends to let you back into the house in fear that they will never be home.
In continuation of this, guilds now have to decide what type of guild they want to be in order to maximize their potential in the niche. Is this guild going to be a PvP guild, a TWC guild, a Structured PvP guild, a PvE guild based around exploration, a Crafting guild, a social guild? Even a specific type of role playing guild based around the premise that you are dark and shadowy organization akin to the Templars or Illuminati? In fact, all of the “paperwork” only really comes from the founding of the guild in the first place. As the key to success in this type of system is providing a unique niche, I can potentially see that there will be fewer goal oriented guilds and more splinter guilds of groups of people who want to avoid the friends list all together, with the bonus of not having to leave your current guild. Or if you want to PvP but do not want to do it outside of a group, then you just switch your guild and find some people in your PvP guild.
In the sense of loyalty, guilds now have to find incentives to keep people interested in their system outside of creating a nice atmosphere. In a free system like this, people will always favor their friends over a potential conglomerate that major guilds appear as. Because of this, many major guilds might find themselves lacking in the influence department as a chunk of their people are not even really participating by representing their guild while doing activities. This causes a minor problem, but a problem none the less. As nobody joins a guild because they want to be loyal to some unseen force who guides their every mover from that point on. Guilds have to offer something that others do not have. In the case of progression guilds, it is fame, new gear and new victories. In PvP, it is partnership and dominance over the PvP world. In this system, you can represent that PvP guild when you want to PvP with those people or raid when you want to raid with the other people. Instead you can now participate with your friends and even if they don’t have any real credentials of interest in that area of the game, you can still be a member of those guilds. The issue lies here is that the guilds who focus on PvE or PvP will have less members (especially in the early days) gaining influence for that guild and thus, we will find a lot of guilds being under leveled. What this causes is an unfortunate side effect that social guilds might actually offer more perks than your PvE or PvP minded guild. This also means that guilds focused on PvP or PvE now have to prioritize where they put their influence and means they might have to sacrifice leveling perks for better ones in the future. But the good news to this is that guilds are no longer money sinks, so you no longer have to sacrifice your own personal gain for the betterment of the guild as influence can be gained by doing just about anything.
Now, say you are in a guild that is interested in raiding but lack the membership. However, nobody really wants to join another guild just to raid because they like to, but it is not their main focus. Since guild mergers never go well, this system allows a better means to doing inter-guild activities. Now the two guilds can join a single guild and raid under that one single banner but still maintain their own guilds without the worry of any type of random power struggle that always happens involving guild mergers. Or if you and a few other PvP guilds want to join forces during TWC to hold a keep, well, now you two can while still maintaining their own PvP guilds and continue to be rivals during casual and constructed PvP. How about guild drama, nobody likes it, but when dealing with people it is inevitable. Well, now if you have multiple guilds, guild drama will no longer be a reason to quit a game. I know after the Sweet Memories incident, RIFT lost a lot of the interest in the game for me. This type of situation can not be unique to me and I am sure that other people have had this problem before, even if they just switch servers. If you want some privacy but dont wish to play an alt, well now you can represent another guild or not represent them at all. Essentially becoming invisible to the masses as you no longer appear online on the roster until you represent that guild again.
The last bit to cover in this section is upkeep. Because of this system, people will come and go. They will join your guild and a week later, join another one because they like that one better and never represent your guild again (as when you do not represent that guild, you are not considered online for that guild). This creates a lot of dead weight within the roster. As in current MMOs, most people who dislike the game just quit and you have to remove them. But players don’t leave their characters in your guild and then join another one. Because of this, it is imperative that instead of an attendance rule, come up with a system that basically states that if you don’t show up in X amount of time with no reason as to why you have not shown back up, then I assume you quit and kicking you from the guild. Unless Arena Net implements some type of inter-guild chat system, then I can see this really only being a nuisance rather than an actual problem with the system. Because of this, guild leaders should also come up with some sort of cap on how many accounts they let into the guild, thus making the guild much easier to manage with a smaller number of people within the guild itself. This also means that guild leaders should be far more cautious about who they let into their guild. If they just let anyone into their guild, then they will always end up with tons of dead weight as people will represent another guild and never represent yours without actually leaving the guild. Also to be far more understanding that because of this system, people will most likely favor their own social circles rather than your guild. So kicking people out willy nilly will not get you anywhere in guild membership.
It is very possible that what Arena Net is doing is turning guilds from clubs to a social networking site. If this is the case, then this system is brilliant. By doing this, they streamlined chat, allows for more dynamic guild structures and basically revamped a very broken system into something that works very well. With tons of splinter guilds and keeps in TWC, it is also possible that Arena Net is trying to develop a sort of server unity rather than a guild unity. By being a member of multiple guilds, you no longer have a sense that you are who you are because of your guild, but rather you are who you are because of which server you reside on. Most people will not be social butterflies and join 50 guilds, 2 or 3 depending on what they are interested in. I know I am interested in a PvP guild an PvE guild and some type of hardcore PvP guild designed around tournament play. But by being a member of all of those guilds, I know I will feel more apart of whichever server I play on (so calling Zhaitan or one of the Elder Dragons). But all in all, this is a great system and I am significantly glad to see this type of change to the rigid systems of the past. It is about time we get something different out of MMOs and Guild Wars 2 is hopefully what will be delivering that to us. Lets just hope that there is free chat services to go with it for even further guild connections.