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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

[General] Advancement and Guilds

I was going to do a post on Firefall's progression and crafting, which ironically happen to be the two things that Red 5 is about to change substantially so I will hold off until that is released. I still recommend the game! For those readers looking for beta spots I have a few invites left. Instead, with Guild Wars 2 coming out with a new patch, and me having taken an interest in playing it again recently, I thought I'd discuss some of my concerns about these new Guild Missions and what they can do to guilds.

Advancement is fun, I'd wager that a large number of MMO players would attribute much of their drive to play to continued advancement; whether through equipment, levels, or some other metric. That's nothing to be ashamed of, it's nice to have clear, discrete goals towards rewards.

However, the latest trend in MMO's is adding a new layer for guilds, because people already love raiding and large-group content, what could be more fun than giving the entire guild something to strive for and rewarding them for doing so?

The problem is actually the same that many encounter with regards to LFG systems and Dungeon Finders. I distinctly recall the debacle in WoW Wrath of the Lich King when the infamous "Gearscore" mod came out and suddenly every LFG channel was filled with "LFG ICC, 2900 GS Required". When you set up rewards, people want the path of least resistance to them; they want other players in their party to have the best gear possible (often, gear that would be obtained in the instance you are entering).

When guild levels came out, this continued, with people desiring guilds of X level so they would get a certain bonus. Small guilds felt the hurt as their looser members split off for higher level guilds with more of the benefits to offer. My own guild, a small group that mostly just ran 10-mans, did not reach the level 25 cap until nearly the end of the expansion. Many start-up guilds found difficulty even getting off the ground because players wouldn't look their way.

Guild Wars 2 somewhat evaded this by making influence something of a currency, giving guilds some control over what they had so as to alleviate the issue of needing to be level X to get benefit Y (though it has some of that still). However now they've added guild missions, which, because of their high influence costs, may drive players away from smaller guilds to larger ones to reap those benefits.

The problem with these rewards is the snow-ball effect, the larger the gap gets the harder it becomes for newer guilds to get started. The way I see it this creates two types of guilds: small "family" guilds of members that have been together a long time or are devoted (and care more for the people than benefits), and the larger "super" guilds that are mainly players looking for those benefits, often with loose connection to the guild itself and a willingness to move if things slow down. Personally I don't think the latter is all that nice, it makes the guild just another chat channel to talk in and derive benefits from, and removes the cohesion of a unified group. Some people do enjoy it, and I do not mean to suggest we should prevent them.

However, these reward systems do seem to cater to the larger guilds much more than small, which may have just as devoted players of the game. It can create a disheartening feeling that they have to work twice as hard (or more) as others to get the same rewards.

At this juncture I am not sure of a solution sadly, the first that pops to mind is the "Reputation" that WoW tried but that system proved so clumsy (especially when one can be kicked at any time without cause) that it made leaving a guild too risky and penalized more mobile players (often high end raiders). A solution that decided the costs based on guild size would encourage kicking members to benefit a certain "preferred" group. What do you think developers could try? Or what have others I have not mentioned tried?

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