A recent blog post (http://www.mmorpg.com/blogs.cfm/blogId/1654/entry/21707) reminded me just how disjointed guilds become in theme park based MMOs.
Before I get into that, let's go back in time a bit. There was a little game called "Asheron's Call" in which guilds were groups of players. Cliques were defined by those who, literally, followed someone in the guild. Players had to swear allegience to a specific player, not the guild, in order to join. You were in the guild because the person you swore to was in the guild. Should there be a falling out, you would have to find a new contact in the guild to re-enter it. Players based additional xp to each other, so that you wanted people to swear to you. However, most items in the game could be given away, so good "patrons" (the people you swore to) would give little gifts to their "vassals" (the person who swore to them) to help them out or just as tokens of continued friendship. Bonds weren't lightly broken, but since everyone could see both your guild and your patron, reputations could spread. Both bad guilds and bad patrons could make it hard for you to get into a group, and because there were no instances or server transfers, this was devastating, even more so on a pvp server were people may kill you based on your relationships.
Enter the theme-park MMO, where the developers give you everything you need to not use social connections. At some point, someone came up with the idea that MMOs would benefit from FPS/RTS style systems, in which the game was multiplayer, but the end rarely mattered. Defeat meant fewer rewards rather than punishment, monsters would come back, bases would be recaptured next round. World of Warcraft uses this model and while it may make good money, the game community is usually seen as unskilled and anti-social, with reputation being pigeon-holed into NPC terminology. Guilds recruit based on your performance and ability to get the guild gear- being behind the guild progress wise usually means you will not be recruited. It's not completely true, but the guilds that defy this are few and far between.
It seems to completely go against the idea of "persistent worlds," but here it is. It makes the game easier to get in and out of, but at the price of community. Darkfall Online, one of the few recent MMOs went with a similar more like AC (minus the patron vassal aspect, but gift giving still applies to an extent for luring new players into guilds to teach them the game and, hopefully, turn them into a contributing guild member). Reputation means everything, granting other guilds de facto right to kill you or trade with you, unless you act in a way that makes you stand out as different from those you are associated with.
However, there's a game in beta called "ArcheAge" which aims to fuse the two genres. My question, however, is how the guilds will turn out in this new generation of MMOs. Will we be seeing a system in which players actively seek others out to help them grow, or will guilds recruit simply based on the ability to get gear? Will we be judged on our guilds, recruiters, and personal reputation, or will instancing make it nearly impossible to get to know our server mates? Will the fusion of the two simply put the community some where between the two MMO genres, or will something completely new occur?