My initial reaction to the multi-guild news from PAX-Prime was pretty harsh, I admit. Anybody who’s run a guild knows how stressful and consuming it is, and we know how players can be. So for many past and hopeful future leaders, they’ve met this news with mixed emotions, and most of us initially against it are in the vast minority. I feel a lot of it has to do with statistics; a very small number of gamers have been guild leaders in comparison to those who are simply guild members or guild-less to boot. A smaller number still have lead competitive / progressive functioning guilds, so it might be hard to understand why we feel the way we do.
I know how it is to be on both sides, as a member and a leader, and so I understand the relief that the majority of players feel. The multi-guild system is an interesting shift in power from leaders to members, perhaps humbling, but is it necessarily a good thing? Like it or not, guilds within games are a system of politics, and politics have proven that a true democracy, one in which the people are all equal in power, rarely works out well. Imagine a military in which all ranking officers have equal jurisdiction. Imagine a school where the students have the same say as teachers.
When it comes to things like this, hierarchy & bureaucracy are needed and more often than not the ‘citizens’ either don’t understand or resent the system by proxy, without realizing why and how it works. Of the games I’ve played, the most successful guilds always have a strict system of leaders and members. Some even borderline tyrannical (not that I agree with that sort of system). Strong leadership and loyalty to a cause is needed for success. And that kind of brings me to the central point:
Guild Loyalty – What & Why?
A lot of people (mostly opponents) have been throwing around the term “guild loyalty” as an argument. But what, exactly, is it and why does this system affect it?
Guild loyalty, to me, is the unspoken (or sometimes spoken) contract between members and the guild[s] they choose to represent, in which in turn for the community and services offered by the guild and its leadership, the members agree to stay ‘loyal’. By that, I mean they spend the majority of their time and contribution to that guild alone. More organized & progressed guilds will often offer services like materials, consumables, repairs, and the like on top of whatever guild perk system is natively implemented into the game. They may also provide a large community for world pvp, help through content, and a source of people to always have at hand when needed. This makes them attractive to join. In some cases, a guild’s reputation among their community may also be a draw for members.
In a traditional guild system where a person is bound to a single guild, either through their main character or account, their loyalty is in a way contracted. Forced loyalty may seem a negative thing at first, but when you think about it, it’s necessary to foster true loyalty in the long run. A player’s attention cannot be divided, and because of this he or she will get to know their fellows faster. They will suffer through progression and learning curves together, taking the bad with the good, which eventually creates the trust and bonds that helps guilds last.
The issue with a multi-guild system that allows on the fly switching is that it’s easy for a player’s attention to be divided. Everybody gets frustrated at times in a game and with fellow players. Being bound to a guild forces one to eventually shrug it off and move on. But being able to just say “screw you guys, I’m gonna go talk to my other guild” creates an imbalance.
Imagine the scenario where one guild does a dungeon run and it goes horribly wrong. Frustrated, the next night some of the players may go to do a run with another guild that goes wonderfully right. Which guild, then, do you think that player will opt to go with more often? One bad run doesn’t a terrible guild make, but when we think of the start of GW2 with hundreds of guilds per server starting on the same level and scrambling to get members, such a thing can really make a difference.
Commitment – Taking the Good with the Bad
Perhaps it’s my cynicism but my experience as a guild leader and a player has shown that gamers can be inherently selfish, vastly impatient, and even lazy at times. The former is not necessarily a bad thing; players want a good experience, and having a competent guild is part of that. I cannot blame them for favoring the guilds that offer more, and can promise a good experience. I would not jump to the assumption that this form of selfishness is a bad trait, either. Players that have a lot to offer expect a return. Trust and faith has to be earned on both ends. I have no issue with that; the best guilds have always offered a good environment for their members. But I worry that multi-guild system basically takes all the responsibility from the members away.
The point, in the long run, is commitment. If we compare a guild to relationships, it becomes easier to understand. A couple bound by marriage and common shared properties is more likely to work through problems and issues and come out stronger than a couple that is simply dating or not even living together who have the option to “opt out” pretty much whenever they want.
Likewise, if you’re bound to a guild, you’re more likely to work through issues and suffer the bad with the good rather than skip out when things are tough for a more favorable situation. If the match is not going to work, that will become obvious with time. But how can someone truly figure that out if they never have to really try to figure it out?
Being in a guild also means there is some responsibility on the members to make it the best it can be. If your guild is lagging or lacking in an area, it takes the whole to work at it to make it better. Why bother when you can just opt for the other guild who isn’t having issues?
Being given the option to take the best of guild A) and the best of guilds B) and C) without consequence is giving them the option to never commit and not have any responsibility.
And what about split opinions? Guild leaders and officers often have to make tough calls; in some cases, a guild may be entirely split down the middle on a subject, meaning no matter what someone’s gonna get pissed. And again, we may find that players unhappy with a decision can opt to switch easily instead of handling and dealing with a situation.
My last concern is that of inherent perks and reputation, and how that will be split. We’ve got very little information on that system, but, if it’s anything like what we’ve seen from WoW and Rift, then there’s another problem to be had. I’d assume that you’d need to choose which guild to represent at a given time and that guild’s bonus’ will apply to you only when you represent them. And so a player naturally will choose to represent the guild with the best perks. By doing so, all their contributions will go to that guild which creates a snow-ball effect that will increase the gaps between guilds. A fear I have is that this system will favor populated, large guilds and hinder the small ones who can’t “level” as fast (although I have faith Anet will avoid such traps.)
Ultimately, in my mind system favors the individual, which very well may be the idea, but perhaps a little too much. It allows them to avoid responsibility & accountability for their part in making a guild a good place to be. But it also takes power away from the leaders while piling on the extra work to be appealing enough for recruitment.
I don’t argue that there is a LOT of positive aspects to it. The ability to have my main guild and a one with friends who perhaps don’t play as often is a great thing. Or the ability to have a PvP guild and a PvE guild separate from one another but easy to navigate.
But I feel guilds are not clubs; not if you want to to be cutting edge, which very well may be a moot point in GW2 since there’s no large raiding to be had. Still, they require a bit more commitment and loyalty than just a circle of friends. There could be other ways to implement social groups (or, hell, even alliances) allowing people to still easily connect with friends with other play styles and interests without encouraging flakiness.
I’ll have to see for myself. Other games have used this system without fail, so I could simply be overreacting.
Until then, the best I can do as a guild leader is what I planned to do from the start; provide enough incentive and a good community that will naturally encourage loyalty and hope for the best otherwise.