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NBI Talkback, a Late Entry on the Relevance of Guilds

October 21, 2013

Dear Reader,

I always feel privileged to be a part of initiatives like the NBI, not only because they promote growth of our community, but also because they provide such tasty fodder for conversations as this one.

There have already been a slew of these responses; rather than link each one individually, I’ll direct you to the page that links all the of the shared topics.  I’ll be covering the other, armchair game design, on Friday (with a surprise poetical diversion in between, though I guess it won’t be much of a surprise, now).

Surprisingly, despite all my trouble, I like the idea of guilds, but objectively I can say that I believe they’ve outlived their relevance.  I’d suggest that the initial concept of guilds came from the need for easy contacts to help you survive.  Early MMOs were far more brutal than our more recent offerings, and as a result, having a group was almost a necessity.  This undoubtedly came from the design of earlier CRPGs, most of which were party-oriented, which were based on earlier pen and paper RPGs, which were also party-oriented, mostly because those were based on even earlier table-top war games, which of course were party (squad/division/army) oriented.

This long chain of evolution lead us to an design decision that seemed like a good idea at the time, but in the end has become more and more irrelevant.  You see, dear reader, in the early MMOs, the availability of easy grouping and communication were vastly less than they are now.  Guilds provided both a platform with which to speak to “like minded” (in theory) players as well as a pool of them with which to advance in an vastly more hostile world.

Now, though, new design decisions have replaced these old ones, historically based on completely different types of games.  The RealID system has made it possible to communicate, even “converse,” with multiple friends.  Cross-realm grouping has made it far easier to group up with people that you’ve enjoyed playing with before.  Obviously, LFD and LFR have made strides here, too, though at perhaps too great a cost.  VOIP systems have made the communication even easier, with a small buy-in of downloading some software, to allow you to chat with who you want when you want.

What, then, is the current relevancy of guilds?  If you’ve got a platform to speak with your “like-minded” friends, can group with them regardless of realm, why then are guilds relevant, and why, regardless of their relevance, do I feel like they are?

Perhaps it’s just habit, both for me and for the genre as a whole.  Again, historically, when you played PnP RPGs, you were part of something larger; your works combined with others’ to create a (hopefully) enjoyable story in which you all partook.  Maybe guilds, then, are filling the “social” element of play, which may be why there are far more social guilds than any other type.

The problem then occurs when the “social” aspect of guilding runs counter to the “goal-oriented” task of raiding.  As many commentators revealed during my recent guild drama, they’ve found that there’s far more problems in “family-style” guilds than in hardcore guilds.  I suspect this is because of the cross purposes; why raid with people you only want to socialize with?

This trend may also come from the way we work as adults.  Due to time constraints and fatigue combined with spending a lot of time with your coworkers, many of our friends come from where we work.  Since raiding is a “work-like” event (though it can be fun and rewarding, but so can work if you end up in a job you like), it makes sense that we’d assume that we’d do so with our “friends.”  What we often forget in deciding that, though, is that we also often have nemeses at work, people who are rude or lazy, who increase our workload or try to make us look bad in front of others, and often as a result end up with the same in our guilds.

As guilds have become less relevant, Blizzard has struggled to enforce guilding with their reward system.  There is now an “economic” incentive to be in guilds; you get more of most every type of currency for being in one.  This may be one of the big draws for me; I want to get all the bonuses I can, of course, but I don’t think that’s my sole reason for still wanting to be guilded.

I’ve written before that I suspect that I’ve become a much more “social” player than I used to be as I’ve slid down the ladder to more “casual” than “hardcore” (and the ladder metaphor isn’t meant to be insulting; it’s safer to be on the ground than up on a ladder – I hate heights).  I suspect, too, that this more social nature I’ve developed is what has kept me guilded, even sometimes against my better instinct.

With this most recent round of guildlessness, though, I’ve still been very social.  I’m keeping in touch with the few people I really liked in my previous guilds, keeping in touch with blog friends, and still raiding, so I think I may be moving towards an epiphany that I don’t really need to be in a guild.  That said, I probably will server hop again and join my other buddy’s guild, nonetheless.

Some may argue that guilds are necessary to raid successfully, but has completely proven that wrong.  I’m not saying you can do heroic raids with those groups (I’m not saying you can’t, either, since I haven’t tried), but both my couple friends who had moved to Germany and my buddy and I have been utilizing Openraid to down bosses since 5.4.  I think any argument about guilds being necessary for current-tier non-hardcore raiding has been permanently disproven.

So what, then, is the relevance of guilds?  Outside of hardcore raiding – and to be frank I’m not even 100% sure about that – which requires a bit more trust and thus a bit more familiarity with the people with whom you raid, I don’t think guilds are relevant any more.

But that doesn’t mean I want to feel that way.  It feels a bit like an end of an era to admit that, despite my many problems with them.


Stubborn (and guildless, for the moment)

8 Comments leave one →
  1. October 21, 2013 10:19 am

    I still think guilds are relevant for most of us.

    I’m possibly a little weird in that I don’t want to be linked with people permanently .. I don’t always want people to see what I’m playing, when, and be able to contact me regardless. I want to be able to log in and chat to my guild friends, and any other server friends, when I feel the need to be sociable, and I also want to be able to play something else, or log in elsewhere, and not feel that, at any moment, I might get contacted by someone for a chat, or to ask for help, etc, etc. I also feel that, if I’m multitasking (housework/cooking, etc) at the same time as playing a game, I don’t really want to be logged in where people can contact me, and think me rude for not replying.

    Therefore, the guild is where I go when I have some time available to sit in front of the computer, it is my “home base” that I always gravitate back to .. it is where the majority of those people are who I would enjoy spending time with either chatting, or running a raid or an instance or organising anything else.

    I suspect that most people would actually prefer to be in a guild (after all, it is a game that is made to interact with other people) .. sometimes it is just not easy to find the right type though.

  2. Cain permalink
    October 21, 2013 11:54 am

    If they would remove the no cross realm for current content (normals and heroics) and the guild perks/achievements there would be no need for them. Personally I would like that as I only ever raid normals or heroics a couple of times if I’m lucky near the end of a tier. I get carried through a full run in a night usually by mostly alts. I still have to be on their server to do that though which is annoying because I have 11 90’s and they are now across three different servers when I wish they were all on one. I don’t want to pay for 10 server transfers though to be on the one that my friends guild is on.

  3. Samus permalink
    October 21, 2013 1:07 pm

    The real problem is that WoW focuses on such a narrow range of performance for players that “should be” playing together. You can’t just form a guild with players you like, that would never work. You need to cobble together different types of players with different types of expectations, who all happen to be at relatively similar progression levels. Combine that with the fact that expectations change over time, and this is obviously going to lead to conflict.

    I think this is why there is so little guild drama among hardcore guilds. They only attract players of one performance level and one mentality, that performance is all that matters. There would never be any guild drama around some players carrying other players, or what to do with someone who is underperforming. Everyone in that kind of guild agrees what you should do in that situation: boot them and find a better replacement.

    I again argue that so much of this could be solved by making 5-man raiding. It is essentially impossible to find and consistently coordinate with 10 players at the same performance/progression level who all genuinely like each other and have the same expectations. I don’t think it would be that hard to do with 5 players.

    • October 21, 2013 3:12 pm

      Not sure I can completely agree with you there, Samus. I’m in a guild that was formed in April 2007. Many of the members have been there for years. We have very little, if any, drama. We are not a hardcore raiding guild .. we try to raid once or twice a week, but often fail to get enough numbers. We don’t have a fixed raiding team .. members work shifts or are away, or are busy with other things, so we tend to have a core of perhaps half a team, and then the rest just fill in as and when they can. It isn’t a large guild, as these things are counted .. less than 60 accounts, and usually between 4 and 14 on per evening.

      Most members have many alts, collect achievements, or pets, or mounts, or farm … generally they have other interests rather than just raiding. And I think this is one of the reasons everyone gets on. It’s not that everyone has a single goal, but that most people have many diverse interests in the game and can turn their hand at most of them.

      One of the main reasons we raid (other than, of course, boss kills, loot, etc) is simply the pleasure of being online with 9 other people all being relaxed and having a laugh. I don’t think it would be the same, and I don’t think it would feel right, having a 5-man “raid” (isn’t that just Challenge Mode, really?)

  4. October 21, 2013 5:09 pm

    Man there’s so much I want to say about this but I don’t have the time.

    1, I think guilds are important to give you the sense of belonging to something smaller than an entire realm

    2, I think when we’re talking about raid groups with lockouts, it’s harder to swap to another group (in a good way) when you have guild tags — it’s an extra barrier

    3, it gives you a group of people who you theoretically SHOULD be able to ask for help or advice and who will do a much better job of it than general chat

    4, if you already know half a dozen people playing WoW or something then I suspect a guild is less important, but for a new player it hopefully provides at least some social connections (even though most new players, sadly, get sucked into awful guilds)

    5, having a default common chat channel and roster helps prevents needing a friends list that is 500 people long

    6, none of these have anything to do with mechanical guild leveling perks

    • Cain permalink
      October 23, 2013 10:45 am

      If guild chat and guild roster worked cross server would you mind?

    • October 27, 2013 5:48 pm

      Interesting question.

      I can’t help but feel like the existence of servers is better than having everyone in one big world. It provides a smaller and more relateable community and makes it more likely you’ll run across the same people.

      So my inclination is to say yes, I would mind, because that very fact loosens some of the social bonds — though it would clearly be more convenient.

      Relevant post I made:

  5. Beshara permalink
    October 23, 2013 4:49 am

    It wouldn’t be so bad if it were easy to find a guild that you fit in with. i think right now it’s easy to find a raiding guild if you are hardcore, but not easy to find a good guild if you are not a hardcore or heroic raider. The tools provided in game and on the forums are of minimal use the way they are now. I think it would be neat if you could register a raid team for a guild, like the old arena teams, that could include non guilded members. That way raid groups could form without fear of missing out on guild achievements, but people could keep the guild they like and still raid in a “work group”.

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