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Outside The Box: Guilds

By: Garrett Fuller

Editor's Note: This is a weekly column from our News Editor Garrett Fuller. Each week, Fuller will highlight new innovations in MMO gaming as well as smaller games that you may not be so familiar with.

Guilds, Guilds, Guilds....this is what the MMO world has become. I know, there are many of you out there who feel that solo play is the way to go, but face it, unless you are part of the Guild, there are some parts of games you will never see. This week I wanted to talk a little about the guild structure we are seeing in MMOs. Mark Kern made a great comment last week in our interview about how being part of a guild can become like having a part time job. While I do believe guilds in MMOs are great, I definitely agree with Mark. How do we balance game play for a guild with game play for ourselves? If any guild leaders read this column I would like to hear your comments in the forums on experiences and ideas to make guilds better for everyone.

I have played in guilds ever since Ultima Online. The structure of a guild over the years of MMOs has changed little. There is a leader who decides to found the guild. Officers who can help call the shots. Then there are the members who all contribute to the community on many different levels. One of the hardest things I have found as a guild leader was that I felt I always had to be online. I would try to play and constantly get asked for help in doing quests and things. It got to the point where I was no longer enjoying my time in game because I was being pulled in so many directions. This can be tough to handle and also really eat up time.

The best guilds are groups of friends who know the real life schedules of each other and can be cool with allowing players to miss a raid night once in a while. To that end, many guilds run a screening process for new members who may not be part of the core group. I do agree with this process. The main reason is that some guilds have a certain standard of play, if a player can't meet that standard there needs to be clear communication about that from both parties. If you run a hardcore guild, you need to make sure you have hardcore players. That being said, I have seen some hardcore guilds fall under because they make the standards too high. Casual guilds can work, but need to have players willing to do some hardcore work. It is never easy to keep all your members happy, even the guild leader.

So how can we work together to make guilds an easier place to play? There have been many reward systems put into place like DKP. There are even master apprentice reward systems. However, I think players should be rewarded for helping each other out. Jack Emmert gave a speech on this type of thing at GDC (it was a column discussion as well). Why not help players and get rewarded for it? I think you would find the social game play of MMOs enhanced by this type of system. That begin said, if a players decides to do some things alone, they should be able to do them without getting hassled. If game designers can create systems to influence more social game play we will be in good shape.

Another element to guilds that can be important is their economics. Some players are forced to give everything they get into the guild and have it stored in a bank. While this may work among friends, it rarely works among people who may have only met through the game. Players often feel that they are not working for themselves and have little to show for their efforts. This is an area that should be balanced out by guild officers. The best way to do this is allow players to help each other randomly and not force some kind of payment system. Unless there is player housing and upkeep costs, then charge players a flat fee. For crafting, players should work for themselves and use a barter system within the guild to keep everything fare, that way players police themselves and not leave it to the officers.

Overall I do believe guilds are a great thing in MMOs. Some guilds have gone from game to game and continue to play together for many years. It even leads to real life events and friendships even if you are miles away. I do believe that game designers can do a lot to promote the social aspects of MMOs. They are called Massive Multi-player for a reason after all. Hopefully we will see more ideas on social game play and how to make guilds think...outside the box.