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Epic Slant @ MMORPG

Articles from Epic Slant formatted for MMORPG.

Author: Ferrel_Thane

The decline of the MMO Guild

Posted by Ferrel_Thane Saturday July 4 2009 at 10:46AM
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Pre-article disclaimer: I am not advocating for the reduction of solo content or the removal of that play style. Let it be clear that I am asking for more support for group content and focusing on how solo-centric design has a negative effect on guilds. I expect many people to respond with rabid "forced grouping" comments anyway.

Lately I’ve been immersing myself in the discussions going on regarding the struggle between the pro-solo and pro-group camps of MMO players. The newest bouts of debate have spilled into a few forum discussions and the comments and related articles by Wolfshead. With such a provocative topic I’ve been inspired to write on many different topics. The one I settled on, to begin with, is how this issue affects guilds. It is my contention that by focusing MMOs so heavily on solo content we are producing players ill-equipped to deal with guilds and, ultimately, weakening the need for such organizations.

The concept of player organizations is not a new one. They have existed for many years but, in my eyes, truly grew to a new height with the advent of the raid guild. These organizations are not unlike real world businesses in the fact that they monitor their member’s “hours” and pay them for that labor (DKP). They also have elaborate hierarchies and stringent policies by which someone is hired. This was sometimes taken to an insane degree and these organizations wielded massive amounts of control in EverQuest when it came to what content a player could experience.

To the uninitiated this may have seemed like an insane practice. In reality, however, it was quite the opposite. In those days the other individuals that were in your guild directly affected your experience of the game so it seemed perfectly reasonable to be quite picky. It was also not an experience that you usually repeated. Most of us were “company men.” It took me 11 months to become an official member of Silent Redemption but once I was in it was pretty much for life. I played about four years with them and when I retired I remained a member. It was that loyalty that ensured I had competent people to group and raid with. I was able to experience everything EQ had to offer before any other guild on the server and I made friendships that have lasted nearly 10 years. It was a labor of love so to speak.

Times are quite different these days. Most MMOs not only allow virtually every class to solo to max level they frequently ensure that that is the best way to do it. Grouping is frequently penalized. It is no wonder, then, that guilds have grown far less important. When I retired from high end raiding in EQ2 I moved on to try WoW. It shocked me at how much mobility players exhibited when it came to guilds. If one thing didn’t go their way they were off to a new guild or new server. I was frequently regaled with long histories of every guild someone had been in. It just seemed unnatural.

Initially I believed this decline to be localized to WoW. However, as Sodality has moved through different games I’ve found it to be wide spread. For every decent long term player we recruit we have to sift through ten or more terrible ones. It was confusing at first but the root cause seems all too clear now: MMOs aren’t really designed around mutual cooperation anymore. They’re designed around solo achievement.

The MMO experience is drastically different than it was five years ago. A player can log in, grab a bunch of quests and be lead by the nose to the appropriate location. Other players in the area are just the guys that are “slowing them down.” The games do offer a group option but the amount of content for that play style is on a steady decline and grouping to do solo mobs is inefficient. It quickly teaches the player that everyone else slows their experience and that by working solo they can achieve more. It, in essence, creates a sense of introversion.

This attitude is instilled so early in players that when they reach max level there are a large number of them that end up as terrible group mates. This is where the horrendous stories of PUGs come from. Those stories do more to turn players off to the idea of grouping and the cycle repeats. As players become less inclined to group they also place less value in guilds. What do those organizations offer anyway?

I often find that the answer is “drama” or “too much meddling.” This probably shouldn’t be surprising. If you’re used to doing everything solo, then you’ll have a harder time accepting external control. In addition, players that aren’t accustomed to working with others will have a harder time adjusting to the team environment, where looking out for number one isn’t the best course of action. There are external factors as well. Content is not as gated as it once was. In truth, only the very top end guilds can offer gear and experiences beyond what the average player can do solo or with a PUG raid. All of these factors ultimately lead to a very weak system for guilds to exist in.

There are ways to amend this situation, of course. The first of which is to make grouping viable once more. If players are encouraged to group early in the game they will be better trained to deal with other players later on. This can be achieved with inducements. There should be challenging and interesting content available and rewards to go along with it. I also feel that grouping should be the most effective way to level with solo existing but not necessarily better. I’m sure I’ll hear the usual rabid “forced grouping” shouts but that is truly a myth. If one play style is more effective than another that doesn’t constitute forcing a player to use it. The truth of the matter is grouping takes more effort and players will take the path of least resistance. If grouping is equal or worse than soloing, few people will do it. I must also note that it is imperative that grouping options start immediately, not at max level.

Once players are back in groups they will naturally gravitate towards guild to avoid terrible players and PUGs. They’ll also be more likely to stay in those organizations because they’ll be more adept at dealing with their peers. That would not be enough, however. I would also like to see guilds subsidized by development shops. Long lasting guilds should be rewarded for their stability. Equally so, long term members should be rewarded. There should be a real sense of loss when a player jumps from one guild to the other. I envision a system where guilds level like players and can pick bonuses. The longer the guild exists the more bonuses it will have and the longer a member stays in the guild the more of those bonuses they will get. That will reduce the amount of guild fractures and forming micro-organizations. Players will be forced to deal with each other and work out their differences.

I have been advocating for a more rich and feature-filled guild experience for a while now and I think this would be the optimum time to start implementation. These ideas can be brought to existing games and new ones alike. Building out the multi-player experience would not hurt the solo game and might just draw a lot more business as well. After all, once players start making those friendships and long term guild associations they might play long past when they would normally quit due to their sense of community. I know that kept me in both EQs longer than I would have been had I been a lone wolf. Everyone seems to believe the money is in the solo game and that may be true in the short term but isn’t conversion rate the most important aspect of the business?

Originally posted on Epic Slant.

Unibrow writes:

 Your post is very observant of the current situation in MMOs. While I do agree with what you say, I also believe the problem is simply that people choose only to do what works best. If you are rewarded more for soloing, then the player will choose to do so (the path of least resistance, as you say), and if you are rewarded more for grouping, the same happens. Even if you are rewarded exactly the same as solo or grouping, people will choose which way they can earn more money while leveling. So if the drops are better and more frequent for going solo, you will still see mostly solo players.

City of Heroes went down this path by rewarding players for teaming rather than going solo. However, an interesting point in fact, you see more PUGs at work than guilds teaming with each other. Which brings me to the next point, all this also depends on the game's drive for guilds. A game like WoW or EQ have more drive for a guild because of the end game raids. CoH does not have this aspect in aces, and guilds suffer for it. Most guilds in CoH keep members by having some sort of special event on a weekly or monthly basis, such as "Free money to the person who makes the most money for our guild!" etc. Otherwise, it's drifters waiting to find a group of people they enjoy playing with or can excel with.

Sat Jul 04 2009 4:31PM Report
Reinier001 writes:

Most MMO's these days have a pretty decent mix or solo quest and group quest but most of the best items can only be obtained from group quest (raid-like quest)

Sat Jul 04 2009 11:42PM Report
Nihilist writes:

MMOs can't only cater to hardcore oriented guilds/players if they want to attract large numbers of subs and make money. Most people are not willing to spend 11 hours to get into a guild, and if they can't acomplish anything in short play spans, then they will move to a game where they can.

 

You criticize WoW for the fluidity of guilds and ease of solo content, but from a financial perspective it is way more successful than EQ or anything else ever was. Also, it still has high-end raid content with hardcore guilds.

 

FF11 is a more recent game where high-end raids are tough and grouping is forced, and the number one thing people complain about is that they must wait for hours and hours  to get the correct number of people to do anything.


The only way I think current games can get stronger guilds is through skill based pvp content that is not zerg based and has ranking systems. Then guilds will rely on tight-knit skilled players to be successful.

 

If devs make the pve content unsoloable from level1, then most players will simply move on since they can play games like WoW where they don't have to waste their limited playing time trying to get a group together, or trying to get into some elitist guild that demands x number of hours per day.

 

 

Sat Jul 04 2009 11:45PM Report
Reborn17 writes:

I for one have never been a big proponent of  guilds, I mean you have people telling you what to do in real life, you need someone to boss you around in a game too? Soloing sucks tho too cuz I didn't pay my $15 this month to play an online single player game, I love grouping, especially PUGs, people are so interesting, and meeting new ones is a gift. Not that guilds serve no purpose, but I think they can be abstracted so that raid content can be accessed with a quasi-PUGish team of players, making success possible, just less probable than with dedicated band of guildies, and I think coh's task force system proves that. This way the player is not subject to the whims of some raiding guild leader on a powertrip just cuz you want this or that from a raid dungeon. It sets the player free to be his or her own player, which is what a virtual world is all about. 

Sun Jul 05 2009 2:55AM Report
debent01 writes:

People ask me why I bother to play MMOs because I solo and the idea of the game is to be involved with people i.e. group/guild. Well, I DO like having people around, but omg the 3 hours you wait to go on a raid and the pettiness and arguing involved with guilds is SO not worth wasting my limited play time and $15. Also, I'm not a great player so I don't want to "get anyone killed" or slow down the fighting because I suck ( yes people say they will teach me but I've been playing for 10 years and still am not uber--not even a GOOD player). So, I group sometimes and even get into a small guild here and there AS long as they understand I cannot commit to certain days or even hours of play. But ultimately I solo. And THANK HEAVENS alot of the game devs have finally realized that there are alot of people in my same situation and have Finally made it Possible for us to Level Up at a decent rate and get some decent loot. I love the games and love seeing people running around all over in the virtual world. Seems "Real"! Meeting people from so many different countries is awsome! But, I still ultimately mostly solo. IF another Method or Idea comes about for Not Soloing, where I'm more involved with groups/guilds etc. I will consider it.

Sun Jul 05 2009 1:51PM Report
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