Are Guilds Still Important?

Posted: May 31, 2007 by Kendricke in Everquest 2, General Game Concepts, Guilds

I’ve been involved in some pretty good discussions over the past few weeks with gamers from all over the MMO-sphere, and with certain high profile players within Everquest 2.  These discussions have almost invariably started to revolve around guilds (or clans, corps, cabals, etc.). 

I love talking about guilds, as should be obvious to anyone who follows my postings for any amount of time.  Earlier this week, I posted an open Letter to My Guild to discuss the pride I have regarding the work they put in night after night.  I’ve spend thousands of dollars over the years travelling to visit guildmates, and on three occasions, I’ve held gatherings at my own home here in the Twin Cities for our members to attend. 

I admit that I see guild leaders as a special breed apart.  To be a successful guild leader takes, in my mind at least, a person who is part CEO, part coach, and part military officer.  At events like FanFaire or Summits, I personally gravitate toward other guild leaders, and almost immediately we begin talking about our guilds like proud parents showing off wallet sized photo albums. 

So it should come as little surprise to find out that I spend a lot of my time and what little influence I have trying to make the games I play in more guild friendly.  I’ll freely cop to having an agenda when it comes to increasing options for guild leaders and officers, and in working toward ways to increase the relevancy of guilds within games. 

However, as I watch MMO’s “evolve” with more and more individual and group options and less and less guild specific content, I find myself wondering if game developers feel that guilds have lost some of their relevancy. 

Where are the guild halls in these modern games?   The guild flags and banners?  The guild banks?  Older games have these amenities already.  I can go visit my guild or association hall in games like Dark Age of Camelot or even Star Wars Galaxies.  So why, then, has it taken nearly 3 years for Blizzard to realize that a guild bank might be a good idea?  Why did it take SOE seven releases to finally bring in guild cloaks?  Don’t get me started on new titles that have recently released or are coming out. 

I love the guild functions in Everquest 2.  It’s one of the reasons my guild is still there still.  I have more tools and functions available to me in EQ2 than in any other game.  For those of you who have never lead a guild, I can’t possibly impress upon you enough the magnitude of relief a good set of guild officer tools brings to your nightly activities.  Any officer who’s spent any amount of time in a larger or more successful guild will tell you that running a guild is very nearly a second job unto itself.  Tools which make that job easier give the officer more time to …well, actually play.

However, are we the niche minority?  Do guilds matter?  Are guilds…important? 

Now, my obviously biased answer is that guilds are absolutely important.  If a system doesn’t exist to form guilds in a game (i.e. Starcraft), then players will still find ways to create and organize guilds.  Without guildbanks, guild officers will create mule accounts to store goods.  Without in-game rosters, officers simply track membership in spreadsheets and websites.  Without guild housing, players simply set up shop in some officers house.  Without guild merchants, someone sets up a merchant character anyway. 

This list goes on.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way…and the way is currently paved with workarounds. 

So why the lag in development time?  Are guilds seen as a niche playstyle?  Why then do the overwhelming majority of players in modern MMO’s belonging to guilds?  Maybe there simply aren’t enough developer guild leaders.  I don’t blame them if this is the case – guild leadership takes time, effort, and emotional resources that most developers probably don’t have left over after already spending 8-16 hours a day working on the game. 

I believe guilds should be easier to run, not harder.  I believe guilds should be easier to set up, not harder.  I believe there should be more guild specific rewards and gameplay, not less.  I believe all of this should exist at launch, not brought in later as an afterthought. 

For nearly 2 years leading up to the release of Everquest 2, there were already guilds.  You’d go to sites like the (now defunct) EQ2 Lounge or EQII.com and you’d find dozens, if not hundreds of listed guilds already recruiting.  The same thing happened for Vanguard, LOTRO, and WoW.  It’s happening now for Warhammer Online and Age of Conan as well.  Obviously players – especially early adopters – feel that guilds are important.  Obviously guild play matters to developers on some level, or we’d never see guild features at all.

However, at what point do we start to see more guild specific content and rewards?  With the release of each of Everquest 2’s expansions, you saw increases to guild levels.  However, unlike the original 30 guild levels, and certainly different from the adventuring and tradeskilling levels, you didn’t receive rewards at level 32 or 39.  You got rewards at 40.  Later, you picked up rewards at 50.  Then, at 60.  There were no “thanks for putting in work to get to level 55” mid-point rewards.  It was all or nothing…and even then, the rewards were largely marginal (typically a slightly faster, but much, much more expensive mount, and perhaps access to some new title).  The only exception was at level 50, when you first started to see status rewards that could be useful in combat.  Even then, the use was limited and the rewards were put in later.

Ruins of Kunark comes with 20 new guild levels.  In recent interviews, SOE has alluded to the idea that there will be rewards spread throughout those levels and not merely at 80 (and possibly 70).  I hope so.  I also hope that the guild recruiting tool is eventually looked at and has some debugging work performed.  I hope we eventually see guild halls one day.  I hope we eventually see more reasons to actually stay in a guild rather than just jumping guilds.  I hope to one day see guild merchants or brokers.  I really want to see guild flags planted in certain contested areas.  I’d love to see the day where a purple and white banner flies over some tower in Qeynos, proclaiming my own guild as a champion of the city. 

Till then, I can only hope that issues such as the near miss on Warg speed (at one point on test, the Warg was up to 50% run speed – effectively as fast as level 60 guild mounts) in Update 34 and the housing issues from Update 35 are simply oversights, and not indicative of some new trend in design philosophy.  One of the few areas where EQ2 has dominated other games of its generation was with guild options and tools.  I hope that the developers remember that, and try not to forgot us poor niche players who wear guild cloaks and enjoy seeing < Names > over our heads. 

Hopefully, we’re still important.  😉

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Comments
  1. ogrebears says:

    Guilds are still important, but developers are realizing there is also the potential to tap new markets with more solo, and small group orientated content.

    A lot of people who are looking at MMO’s now are the type of players who want to be able to log in at any time and have something to do, there not the type that can put the time in to raiding, but they want to have some reward.

    So more resources are going to that than ever before. BUT the good part about this is, while these new people might start off by them self, and keep to them self for a while, this is a social game. They will meet people they like in the game, form friendship and join guilds.

    So guilds aren’t going to be going away, but i don’t see them as important to new players, there more important to the players who have played the certain game for a while

  2. kendricke says:

    I don’t think that guilds aren’t as important to newer players. For many players, joining a guild can be a transformative experience regarding gameplay. Having access to veteran players, a pre-existing social network, and regularly scheduled events is a major boon over just figuring it out by yourself.

    To me, guilds are the MySpace and LinkIn of the MMO’s. Guilds can add a new dimension to gameplay especially for newer players, even if the guild never raids.

    I think the real problem is that the guild system in most games is itself rather intimidating to newer players. You see all these different names and tabards/cloaks running around, but new players really have no idea what it all means, and even if they do, they don’t know which guild is the right one.

    Most games don’t bother explaining guilds at all – either with in-game tutorials or in-box documentation. Even those games which do include some blurb on what guilds are usually don’t have any way of helpng players actually choose a guild. This leads to the situation you describe, where only players who have played for a while seem to find guilds important.

    Guilds can be hugely influential as well – not necessarily upon developers, but upon players. Some of the biggest MMO news and discussion sites right now started as guild sites: FOHguild.org, Ten Ton Hammer, and Silky Venom are just a few examples that spring immediately to mind. However, even beyond these examples of larger or more well known guilds, there do exist hundreds, if not thousands of smaller guilds which still carry considerable influence on how their memberships spend their nightly online entertainment time.

    I’ve known several guilds which decided to fold within this game or that, which lead to previously loyal customers for a particular game decided to head elsewhere just to be with the guild. I know that if I told my guild that we were switching locations, at least 80% of them would come with…and many of them would then influence whether or not other, additional guilds moved right alongside us. In fact, when we moved to Everquest 2 from Everquest, no fewer than 3 additional guilds came with us from Solusek Ro server to settle in on Guk. We accounted for a significant percentage of Guk’s population – and still do.

    I would assert that the majority of players spend the majority of their online game time engaged in some form of guild related activities, be it as involved as coordinated raiding or as simple as guildchat (voicechat servers included).

    Yet, even so, design for guilds and guild specific tools seems to lag far behind other features within most games. It’s obvious to me that guilds are important to players. My concern here is that it’s not quite as obvious that guilds hold a similar level of experience for developers.

  3. Keen says:

    I for one would be completely lost without my guild’s help. I’m in Mistwalkers on Antonia Bayle and I have so many questions on a day to day basis as a returning player that I would probably have never returned if not for their kind helping attitudes.

  4. Broom says:

    Gotta totally agree with Orgebear on this one. The way the new games are going, it will be possible for solo players and small groups to accomplish alot on their own. If after a certain level one wants to join a guild for the raid experience that will be feasible. For myself I never really liked guilds, but being that I had no other alternative most times, I joined them and finding them lacking, would end up leaving them. One of the reasons I left EQ2 and went to WOW (yes I know all about its negatives) is that its possible to level solo and obtain great items thru PVP type of play. Many players like myself, do not particularly need or require the social network of the guild (and its inevitable drama, imo). I will say that while leveling I had nearly 3 pages of good friends that I had made along the way. This loose collective was always available to me for the times I needed to accomplish group quests. I even set up a vent server for them to log onto to make grouping instances easier (this ended up becoming a social network all by itself with many of my friends cross befriending one another) When I finally joined a guild is was the guild of a dear friend that I had spent many an hour grinding out quests with. As a result I find myself far more inclined to stay put and really feel devoted to the guild (been in it for 4 months). I think this is how I would like to continue to go about in future. I will be playing Tabula Rasa when it comes out and from what intel has leaked it will definitely be a solo friendly (guild when you want, not because you HAVE to) place with solo instances and a great lfg system for teaming up.

    Dont get me wrong, I think guilds are great and do indeed influence the MMO community, however for those of us that choose another path, I think it’s great to have choices 🙂

  5. kendricke says:

    Hey there Broomhilde, it’s good to see you again (she was one of my favorite voices in the Shaman and Gameplay forums before she left EQ2).

    Anyway, if the idea of guilds doesn’t work for you, what type of community or network would? Are friend’s lists enough, or would you prefer other methods by which to interact with players?

    Often times when I’ve spoken to players who were turned off by guilds, it’s often due to some specifics regarding those particular guilds or guild systems (whereas by contrast, players who loved guilds or guild systems tended to enjoy the specific guilds or guild systems they were personally involved in). Which came first, though, the chicken or the egg? Were players already preprogrammed to like guilds, and thus found guilds to be to their liking? Or was it a case of players lucking out and finding good guilds and then deciding that the guild system was good?

    If guild systems were designed to be more integral (and easy to operate), do you think we’d see more guild players…or would it be a case of forcing players to follow the rigid path?

  6. Broom says:

    The one thing I love about the loose network concept is that people really help you becuase, well, they really like and prefer to do so. In guilds sometimes there are obligations that are called upon by guildmates that you may or may not like. So to reiterate, a loose collective works for me best. If someones helping me its because they WANT to, not becuase they feel they have to. What helps make this work however is 1. a good LFG system, 2. some type of LFG channel 3. enough solo and small group content even at higher levels.

    For me, my dislike of guilds came about from constantly seeing drama, mostly stemming from relationships within the guild. It also has to do with my own private “lone wolf” mentality. But based on my observation people either really get lucky or they dont when choosing a guild. Its like a relationshipp, some times that person is perfect for us, and sometimes they aren’t. IMO It really isn’t about the systems in place, in EQ2 it was adequate (not great, but adequate). Wow’s is far better, with guild tabards and looting options. But I think any system that improves on the functions will improve upon the guild experience provided that the guild is comprised of compatible individuals.

  7. Broom says:

    Btw, it’s nice to see you too Kendricke, glad I found your spot and I recently found Virginworlds, nice space there. Its good to see intelligent dialogue about and by gaming for a pleasant change. Keep up the excellent site, I am enjoying reading your work.

  8. kendricke says:

    See, I think it’s interesting that you prefer World of Warcraft’s guild functions over Everquest II’s because I’ve always felt the guild leadership tools were far superior in EQ2. I hadn’t really considered the functions from a general member’s perspective. (I noticed also that you mentioned tabards, but not cloaks – so either you simply dislike cloaks by comparison or you quit prior to Echoes and so aren’t really aware of the cloaks.)

    Also, a number of factors you mentioned regarding guilds seems to relate (as I previously alluded to) toward specifics regarding guilds you’ve belonged to and not necessarily the system itself. Everything you mentioned regarding obligations or drama seem specific to particular guilds or organizations you’ve belonged to and could have just as likely been found in a loose network (though in such networks, it’s admittedly easier to walk away or cut off specific individuals, as opposed to having to deal with a particular member on a nightly basis).

    What I wonder then is how much of your opinion regarding guilds would be swayed had (A) you’d belonged to different, more laid back guilds or (B) if the game design incorporated more “cool” guild exclusive features right from the get-go. Even you mentioned guild features you liked in World of Warcraft such as tabards and guild loot options. What if a game fully embraced guild design right from the start and threw in dozens of such features…not merely a handful? I’d wager that you’d see more people joining or forming guilds (particularly if the game had functionality which made it easier to choose, create, or run a guild in the first place).

  9. Broom says:

    I see just where your coming from Ken, and I will agree, if there were some awesome guild features in place (at the start) , people (even lone dogs like myself) would probably be more apt to join and stay. At this point in my gaming career Im pretty much full throttle…I dont think a laid back guild would be for me, I am loving raiding in WOW. And your spot in about the loose network, if someone acts stupid it’s easy to walk away without any bad feelings. In fact the ability to take a “time out” from someone at most time reinforces the friendship and yr able to reunite better comrades for it. If your in the same guild, this may be hard to do.

    Comment on some possible guild features/functions: I would love to see a guild not just gain levels and the subsequent special loot and mounts, but also be able to access certain areas due to their reputation and/or level. Per se specific raid zones, or solo instances for its members that want to just log in for a few and get some quality playing in without inconveniencing their guild mates. Or get a break at certain vendors on item costs. Perhaps gaining certain reps can allow them to join certain factions and or become enemies with other guilds, making opposing guilds KOS and automatically set to pvp. The amount of things that can be done with the guild functions is absolutely limitless (guild hall, guild bank/broker are things that you have already alluded to). Why many developers haven’t explored (and exploited) this function is something I can’t answer. Another thing that would be great is a function that allowed small guilds to hire outside help for assistance with raids etc. Some sort of LFG function that would allow other players to join a raid and be paid to do so (however not allowing them to loot raid items). God, the possibilities of guild functions are endless and I digress. 🙂 But your right. Many players would be more apt to join and stay with a guild if the guild function tools were expanded.

  10. matt taylor says:

    i agree with this, just yesterdaythe guild im in on SWG help a party outisde are city, its great to see players come together, one player set up a online radiostation so we where all listening to the same thing, it was to celebrate the guild and a player was leaving for good so it was a good buy part, you just dont get this kind of “groupness” in new mmos.

    (my url is not the SWG guild!)

  11. Saylah says:

    I loved the guild halls in AC2 and think EQ2’s guild and player functions are outstanding. Even as a player who tends to solo, I still want to be a part of something bigger than myself. I would think that adding these features actually helps people who may prefer to level solo or in small groups, still remain connected to a larger entity. Afterall, you can be part of a guild and still do you’re own thing.

    What WOW lacks is a reason to be in a guild beyond raiding since their is no way of remaining connected with these people. If you’re not on when their own or happen to cross their paths while out questing, there’s no connection. Whereas guild halls and banks motivate you to be and stay connected, possbily even just for the fringe benefits if nothing else.

  12. […] than something that gets in your face from the git-go! I posted the following as a comment on Clockwork Gamer back in 2007 as a response to the idea that guilds aren't as important to newer players: […]

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