Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Is the Small Guild Endangered?

In DDO's recent State of the Game address, Turbine writes:
The team is currently busy working on some great additions to the guild system that will let guild members work together to earn valuable rewards and rival guilds compete for status on each server. One of the biggest rewards players will work towards is access to an all new guild housing system, which we are implementing in a cool and unique way. Suffice it to say, we think you will really want to be part of a guild that has earned access to this feature!

We now know that the "unique way" means Guild Airships. Less clear are the specifics. When they say that guilds will compete for status, does this mean that there will be a limited number of airships per server? When they say that players will want to be in a guild with an airship, do they mean that airships will have significant effects on gameplay?

The Increasing Effect of Guilds on Games
It seems that there is an increasing push for guilds to have more of an effect on the actual game.
  • Warhammer launched with a variety of perks, including a teleport and access to PVP gear vendors (who otherwise are only found in contested keeps that your faction might not control).
  • EQ2 guild halls make a huge impact on the player experience, from crafting to travel - I honestly don't know how well the game would have stuck with me if I had remained unguilded, even though I spend the vast majority of my gaming time solo.
  • WoW is revamping its guild system to have as-yet-undetermined effects, though these are not all that well defined as of yet.
  • LOTRO guilds don't really do that much, other than allowing guild groups to meet up somewhere for a hunter to teleport them to their final destination, but that's probably more because they have yet to get around to it than because that's what they really want the system to do.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing - one could argue that the state of the guild prior to 2008 was too weak, encouraging players to think of guilds as expendable loot gathering platforms. On the other hand, it creates the real potential for drama and pressure.

Accommodating Diversity
In fairness, guilds are intended to be a collective endeavor. Sometimes that means the bar will need to be set at a level that a single player in a vanity guild cannot reach. I'm reasonably prepared to accept this.

The issue arises when we start looking at the small to medium sized guilds. My current EQ2 guild has about a dozen active players, and I don't think I'd ever leave them for anything. Fortunately, EQ2's guild halls don't really offer that many hard choices - the most important amenities are easy to agree on, and you'll get all of the major ones soon enough. (For example, Stargrace is apparently on her fifth level 30+ guild at the moment.) On the other hand, I could certainly see how a system that allows smallish guilds like ours to advance would make advancement trivial for the bigger guilds.

Meanwhile, size isn't all that matters. WoW's plan is for guild "talent points", which might seem to imply that your average guild won't be able to get all the bonuses. How will this affect guilds with players who have different preferences on how those points should be spent? Meanwhile, I'm told that Warhammer's guild system bases some portion of their (secret) guild advancement formula to the size of the guild. This sounds fair on paper, but it opens the door for players who aren't contributing "enough", whatever that level is, to actually deter the guild's progress (encouraging the guild to kick said players out, even if they would otherwise be welcome and generally not in anyone's way).

The large guild certainly has some advantages from the developer's standpoint. Large guilds are more likely to have critical mass to run group content, and may introduce players to more potential friends. Then again, sometimes a small, tight-knit group is just more what a player has in mind. That's why the way the DDO announcement is phrased has me reading a D20 to roll a saving throw against traps. Maybe nothing bad will come of it, but I'd rather not be caught flat-footed.


  1. I'm currently looking into starting an Age of Conan guild.

    You get global bonuses for guild members by owning certain structures.

    The top level of structures are built in battle keeps, 8 of which are allowed per server. They can be captured by siege.

    The battle keep bonuses are large enough that if you don't have them and you fight a random stranger one on one you'll probably notice whether he has them or not.

    In other words to be someone you need to be in the top 8 pvp guilds on your server.

    Aiming for anything less is a severe disservice to your members.

  2. in WoW, while the proposed guild "talent point" system means that points have to be earned, guild size is not an absolute bar. When first announced their plan was to limit "guild experience points" (or whatever) to the top 20 producing players in a given night/week. This meant that whether your guild was large or not wouldn't have an adverse effect.

    Of course this is suboptimal for whatever guilds are below this minimum threshold. However they'll still gain points, just more slowly. But they're probably also doing everything more slowly anyway, so not a deal-breaking loss.

  3. Yeah, Blizzard clearly does not want to penalize guilds that heavily on size. The concern with WoW's system is primarily whether a guild with some players who want to PVP, some want to raid, etc is going to have problems because they can't afford to get the guild talent bonuses that affect both types of gameplay.

  4. I'm sure there will be quite a few social guilds merging together to get enough "producing" members to actually get somewhere. Your average raiding guild won't have any issues but I do wonder how 10 man guilds will work out in cat.

    In Guild Wars they had this with Factions. Guilds had members with a minimum requirement of rep grinding in order to take possession of towns in contested area. This lead to guilds recruiting on their productivity. Which to a point I guess is already happening... but will see Cataclysm herald in the age of "Guild xxx recruiting must run 10 heroics a day min!"


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