Thoughts on the Multi-Guild System:

During PAX Prime, among all of the demo and PvP playing there was also a myriad of panels from the ANet team. Most of the information wasn’t strictly news, but we did manage to snag some tidbits about the upcoming guild system. Although it is far from complete, the biggest announcement was the structuring of guilds and their relation to accounts.

Here’s the set of relevant information:

– Account belongs to a guild
– One Character can represent multiple guilds
– Can choose to not represent a guild
– Earn influence with guild
– Perks: storage, ect… bought with influence.
– Use influence to make keeps harder to take in WvWvW

Before we go into the benefits of this set-up, I think it would be good to examine systems of the past. Typically, guild systems fall into one of two camps: a character joins a guild or an account joins a guild. In the former system, a character only belongs to one guild, but each character can belong to a different guild. On the one hand, this offers decent flexibility for having characters that are private with regard to one guild or another. It also lets you join however many guilds you want assuming you have enough characters. On the other hand, it can be something of a pain to just see who’s on in multiple guilds because you have to check each character. Further, most games with this setup will make additional characters on your account take additional slots in a limited guild roster. For example, some games have max guild member caps of 100-200 members; adding 3 characters from the same account takes up 3 of those limited slots and if the guild is popular that can be a pretty big deal.

The other common system is that an entire account joins one and only one guild. This is the system that Guild Wars had. The benefit is that you only take one slot up in the guild roster. You can easily see who is in your guild no matter what character you are on and it can help create a stronger sense of community. The major downside is that, well, you can only join one guild. Many players would like to be in multiple guilds for a variety of reasons. Some guilds are devoted entirely to one aspect of the game, like RP guilds, PvE guilds, PvP guilds, elite areas/dungeon guilds. Some guilds are a community of like-minded people. Some are just small groups of friends that like to play together and know when each other are on. Regardless of the organization of the guild, the fact is that sometimes people want more focused groups for specific needs but don’t want to dump their current guild. The only way to change focus is to either leave your guild or have multiple accounts; I think we can all agree that’s not a good requirement for a guild system.

Guild Wars did have one really excellent system to sort of hybridize the two models: Alliances. With Guild Wars Factions ANet introduced a mechanism to band multiple guilds together into one organization. Although there was a restriction in the form of the side the alliance belonged to (Kurzick or Luxon) and a small monetary fee, there was little else to establish any barriers. There was a new chat channel for the alliance chat as well. The feature was really fantastic for large groups of guilds with common purposes as well as groups of smaller communities that wanted to retain their individual identities but be exposed to a broader audience. Some of my favorite gamers I have met were in an alliance with us and those friendships have now persisted into other games now that we play GW less. I fully expect to re-join them in GW2. The thing is though, we wanted our own guild’s autonomy and they wanted theirs, so the alliance system worked out just great for us.

Alrighty, that’s enough background. Looking at the GW2 style of guilds is extremely exciting for me. I run a very small guild of almost exclusively IRL friends; about 10-15 members. It’s extremely convenient to be able to have a place where I can chat with friends without using a cumbersome friends list to whisper everyone. At the same time, it’s nice to not have to deal with random guild drama that can occasionally accompany bigger groups. I know these people well enough to feel secure in a drama free zone. That said, there are definitely times where I have wanted easier ways to communicate with other groups of people without having to PM them, make a new account or disband the guild. One of our officers got super into UW speed clears but our guild was simply not large enough or experienced enough on the whole to support that so he had to leave for about a year. Several of us would love to get into more frequent PvP, but our guild wasn’t big enough to accommodate that desire on a serious level.

The ability to join as many guilds as you want (or at least a large number) without taking up valuable roster space for duplicate characters will allow you to diversify your interests without having to choose between friends. Being able to actively participate in however many you want at a given time on each character will allow you to essentially customize your “alliance” on a per-character basis without being stuck with whatever the group mentality of your guild is. If I want to join the Hamstorm guild, that doesn’t mean my guildies have to join it as well. They can if they want to, or Hamstorm could refuse any that they wanted, but it won’t constrain individual relationships. The ability to turn off which guilds you’re currently representing will allow you to have various degrees of privacy as well. I may only want to have my own guild see me when I’m on the “guild leader character” so that I can administrate my guild or simply just hang out with friends. I may only PvP on my *cough*Mesmer*cough*…. er Necromancer and thus only show up to my PvP groups. Heck, this also opens up the ability for members of my guild to run their own guilds separately from mine if that is their desire, and there is nothing stopping us from both belonging to each others’ guilds.

All of that said, I do have some potential reservations about this system. As stated, I run a very small community guild. I plan to attempt expansion in GW2, but who knows if it will take off? Maybe it will become a thing, maybe it just won’t gain traction and will be fairly akin to the guild I currently have. Looking at the latter half of that list, we have been told that you earn influence for your guild and that influence is what drives upgrades for your guild. I’m somewhat leery of that. In GW1 all it took was money. Our guild was fairly wealthy as things go and so we were able to buy all of the upgrades without too much work. Many other MMOs however put huge constraints on guild progress by requiring a metric ass-ton of players playing a lot of hours just to gain the required status to upgrade the guild. Now, some may say that this is something that can be a draw to larger guilds or that it’s something that builds community. I suppose that may be true, but to me it’s extremely unappealing. The net effect feels a hell of a lot like grind if you want to be part of a tight-knit community like ours. It’s like grinding for uber-leet-gearz in some other MMO: sure, you don’t need them, but your character feels incomplete when they are simply worse than they can be because you haven’t dumped a thousand hours in.

Using influence to fortify keeps in WvWvW doesn’t bother me; this is just like faction points in GW1. That’s an element that doesn’t really add to the function of your guild, just the prestige. Just like with items in GW1. It was fairly easy to get max functional gear and a max functional guild but that didn’t mean there were no ways to get prestige. That’s always been their philosophy so I hope that I’m just over-reacting. I will be exuberant if it doesn’t take a million hours or members to max out your guild hall and guild perks. Speaking of guild halls, we might as well talk about the other piece of news that we heard: there will be no guild halls at launch, but they will be added later.

Alright. That’s pretty interesting. There’s actually a lot of questions that raises as well as some evidence to the development of the game. It does tell us that they are pretty confident with what will be finished at release and what will be worked on shortly after. It seems to hint to me that they are approaching an internal deadline that they absolutely want to meet; otherwise they would very likely just add guild halls in right now. It also reinforces their mentality of “When it’s done/ready”. They don’t want to half-ass it, and that’s a great thing. So what questions does it raise? Well, for one, will there be any place to easily congregate as a guild until the halls are released? What kinds of features will halls have and will they be visually customizable? Will there be NPCs there like in GW1 for basic services? Most importantly,will they be a microtransaction?

I hope not. I am not against a lot of things for microtransactions. Vanity stuff I don’t really mind so long as the game isn’t intentionally designed to be ugly to encourage the microtransaction, and I certainly don’t accuse ANet of that. One could argue that a guild hall is almost entirely “cosmetic” and offers nothing truly unique gameplay wise. One could argue that they will be a lot of work and would be worth a small microtransaction. Although these are somewhat valid, I think it would be a huge disincentive to have smaller guilds and would greatly diminish their appeal; unless you shell out the cash of course. Personally, I think that guild halls are a somewhat integral function for guilds and I only accept that they won’t be in the release because they have already said they are going to have them after and they want them to be special. If there is a price attached I’ll be pretty upset. This same question has been raised about player housing as well since it will be coming out after release and is often spoken in the same breath as guild halls.

Well, that pretty much covers what has been stated about the guild system. Now I’d like to share what my wishes are for the new system. First of all I would hope that there would be an easy way to be able to view multiple guild chats at the same time, much like you can do with guild and alliance chat in GW1. Many games have the ability to create your own custom chat channels to only show specific details and even to choose the color scheme of the channel. You can make a channel that shows only guild and team chat and have guild chat in green and team chat in blue, or guild chat in red and team chat in white, or whatever you want. You can then make another channel for local and regional chat and team chat, but not anything else. Then you can choose the colors for each chat type in that channel too; team chat can be blue in one channel and green in another. These are really cool systems once you get the hang of them, and I would love if I could make say a channel for my guild and MVOP and Hamstorm, and another for just my guild and team chat, and one even for all guilds I belong to. Such a system would allow you to pay attention to whomever you want without having to constantly switch between chat channel options just to see if someone has anything to say; you just see it as it comes. To go along with that, it would be very nice if you could answer in any guild chat that you belong to without having to go and set yourself to be representing that guild first. That would be a huge time saver that could be fairly easily implemented. For example, in GW1 (and many other games I think), starting a chat message with !,@,#,$ etc will put them into your first, second, third, fourth chat channels and so on. In GW that was all chat, guild, team, alliance respectively. To accommodate multiple guilds, the @ prefix could be followed by the guild you want to talk to, like @Relics or @Hamstorm. It could remember the last one you used so that if you just pressed @ it would fill in the rest with it highlighted for change, and pressing space would just accept what was highlighted. If you instead typed @ and then started typing, the game could attempt to auto-complete the name based on which guilds you are a member of. As a side note, the prevalence of Twitter would make this an easy transition for many gamers since @Username is how you refer to a person/group, and @ was already guild chat in GW1. Convenient eh?

Another feature that would please me would be more customizable guild ranks and permissions. As a guild leader I would love the ability to have more than 2 ranks (member and officer) that I could assign. There are lots of things that I would love people to be able to do without giving them all of the power of an officer. For example, I would like a lower rank of officer that could add guild members but could not kick them or post messages into the guild news. I would love the ability to tailor which members can access guild storage. An anecdotal example is that in Aion only officers and the leader could access guild storage. I was part of a pretty small guild (not the leader) with maybe 40 members. There were probably 15 of us that were all long time GW fans/friends that all trusted each other completely with access to guild storage… but having 15+ officers in that small of a guild was just kind of silly. Having more ranks with customizable permissions would allow much greater control and incentives for guild leaders to encourage growth and discourage shenanigans. Much like people enjoy gaining levels and gear, they enjoy the ability to take on ascending levels of prestige and responsibility within a guild, but only having 2 ranks makes it incredibly unfeasible for advancement in most cases. From a programming perspective, such abilities shouldn’t be too complex, but I do recognize that it could be potentially an issue for storage in the database. Having custom ranks and permissions for each guild and having the server keep track of that could be a bit of a pain.

I would also love the ability to have on-the-fly grouping via the guild menu. Since the game is largely not instanced, there shouldn’t be a problem with allowing people to group from larger distances. You could use your guild menu to allow a right click (or button) function that would invite selected guild members into a group. It would be a small thing for players, but certainly very handy if the towns get as populated as I hope they will be, especially since we won’t have guild halls right off the bat. Sure, it sounds lazy to say that I don’t like hunting for my guild tag in a crowd, or just typing the name, but some people have long and/or weird names. One of my characters is named Sarahmed Allayah… that’s kind of a handful to type out manually every time, don’t you think?

A feature that was sort of mentioned for the mobile apps was the ability to see the over-world map and see where your friends and guildies are. This would be a fantastic feature to implement in-game. Ideally there would be just a checkbox/shortcut to show/hide the people, but it would be really nice to see where people are if you want to join them without having to take a census. Equally, I would hope that there would be an option for the player to hide their whereabouts, just like showing yourself as offline. Again, privacy is definitely something I would want to maintain.

Finally, just a small feature that might be nice would be the ability to register a nickname in a guild somehow. I am a professed altoholic and I feel bad that sometimes people don’t know who I am because I am playing on a less familiar alt. It would also be nicer for people that know me from the forums and such to be able to see me as Greibach instead of one of my myriad of character names, only one of which is actually going to be Greibach. It would just be another small way to help keep the community tighter within a guild if you have an easier way of associating the player with the character; again it should be optional.

Regardless, I think that the overall news of the guild system is encouraging. They have some potential pitfalls but I think the overall convenience will outweigh them, especially if those things are just over-exaggerations on my part.

Further reading:

  • draxynnic

    I pretty much agree with everything you’ve said.
     
    One of the frustrations I’ve had with the GW1 guild system is that for pretty
    much all the time I’ve been playing, I’ve been a member (and am now technically
    the leader) of a guild of people I’ve known from elsewhere that were all playing
    Guild Wars. That guild is now all but inactive, but for sentimental reasons, I’d
    really rather not just dump it… but in the meantime, I’m fully aware that I’d
    have had more opportunities to finish off things on my GW1 to-do list if I’d
    accepted some invitations into more active guilds and alliances.
     
    Influence is something I’d definitely hope is kept not-too-grindy. It’ll be
    interesting to see just how that works out – if it’s something that just
    naturally builds up for your guild as you play while representing that guild, it
    might not be a problem at all. You’ll just naturally gather the influence you
    want while you do all the things you’d do normally. It’s when something has only
    a limited number of effective means of gathering it that it becomes grindy.
     
    When it comes to microtransactions… I could see some guild halls being
    microtransaction-based, but I’d find it annoying as well if the basic
    functionality required a real-money transaction. There should at least be a
    reasonable range of basic guild halls that don’t require RMT, with more advanced
    ones possibly available for those willing to fork out the cash. (And there’d
    better be an option to preview…)

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