I recently commented on how poor the community tools and mindset is in Guild Wars 2. It is an interesting problem made more prominent in Guild Wars 2 due to several design choices regarding Guilds and how they are interacted with by its players.
The largest problem facing guild leaders is one of organization loyalty, but the root of the problem is centered on more modern gaming trends. Gamer’s are fickle creatures by nature, especially the younger ones in today’s market. Take for example the most popular method of gaming; Consoles. Consoles have established a mindset of login and play; a sort of instant gratification. Instant matchmaking has led to the notion that kids can smack talk their way through a game with no consequences. Why? Those people you just talked shit to …. what are the chances of ever running into them again on XBOX Live? The anonymity factor of playing in an online MMO has the greater potential of anonymity due to the ability to simply log off your one character and login to another (or delete a truly infamous persona). The potentials of ditching one persona for another have been well documented and drama can be found in the history of MMO’s dating back before EverQuest.
ArenaNet has introduced a few changes to this dynamic, but its unclear if the design choices were intended to have this effect. In essence, ArenaNet took Blizzards ID system and took it one step farther. While Blizzards ID information is controlled by the user (after much protest I should add), it still allows for a sense of anonymity behind different character names. ArenaNET took this sense of anonymity and removed it. All of your characters are now tied to a general account name (and your identity is linked regardless of who you play on). Those with only one account can no longer log into the public forums and berate players with reckless disregard for public decency. Everyone’s identity in Guild Wars 2 is now tied to the account name and is easily tracked between guilds and by players.
Further modernizing the genre, ArenaNet has allowed players to become a part of any number of guilds. Players must simply click ‘represent’ and they are a member of that specific guild for as long as they chose to represent them. The problem becomes apparent once you realize that your guild chat no longer shows up for guilds you aren’t representing. In essence you cease to be a member of that organization. Additionally any of the “influence” (a sort of guild-currency in Guild Wars 2) that is earned by doing just about any activity you can think of as a player, is only earned by the represented guild. This poses organizational frustrations that unfortunately are left for the poor guild leader to deal with.
Is this ArenaNet evolution of guild design such a bad thing? I for one think it is.
Imagine trying to run a sports organization. A baseball team we’ll say. Its pretty hard to manage an effective team if your players time and loyalties are split with two different teams. In fact, one would say their goals are in opposition of each other. You could even extend the metaphor to include two different sports. Remember when Michael Jordan played baseball? He didn’t play both at the same time did he? Do you think they even would of allowed it, had it been feasible?
In Guild Wars 2 terms, the notion of belonging to multiple organizations seems initially harmless. The problem becomes an issue when players login and see 20 people online but none representing them. What are you to do? In your head that guild with no one representing it, might as well be considered dead. The chances of you returning to represent it are slimming.
Some have suggested on the official forums that belonging to specialized guilds allows players more direct access to sharing this game with the right people. Players are being drawn to the idea of being in a ‘Dungeon guild’, a ‘tPvP’ team guild, and a ‘PvE Karma Buff’ guild all at the same time. The player would merely swap organizations on the fly depending on what they needed or wanted to do at that time. Its an excellent mirrored vision with what we’d think the developers had in mind for this new system. This notion, however, is still flawed. Even if you accept the premise that players couldn’t find an organization that did everything they wanted (a jack-of-all-trades guild), the idea that any of these imaginary but ‘focused’ guilds could stand the test of time is beyond me. If everyone in the ‘PvE Karma guild’ swapped to go do WvW, that would leave the organization devoid of players. If your in a guild and no one represents it, does anyone hear you cry?
Most guilds in previous MMOs have been long-term successful because they offer not just a functional solution to a problem facing players (a raiding guild, a dungeon running guild, etc.) but also provide intrinsic value to them as well. Take me for example; I’ve been a member of Shining Force for going on 10 years. Its survived because of the notion of loyalty (its one of the guilds defining and most attractive qualities). Members love knowing that when a new game comes out, they can hop on the guilds Ventrilo server or forums and find players they’ve played with for years. They know these people won’t quit on them at the first sign of trouble because they’ve created lasting relationships with many of the players who are members.
Am I saying Guild Wars 2 prevents guilds from recreating our success? Nope. Yet there are a few things you can do as an organization leader to spur the growth of a lasting community like ours;
- A forum presence creates an out-of-game location for members to talk about things outside of the game your playing. Make sure you designate game discussion and out-of-game discussion so the line isn’t blurred and players who aren’t interested in your specific game have a place to go to discuss or share whats going on with them outside of the game.
- Require voice communication. Ventrilo or Teamspeak tells me as a player your serious about the game your in. Ever try doing a complicated raid or dungeon without one? They tend to be less successful then those managed with voice communication. Complicated instructions typed out almost never land the same type of message as one that’s spoken. Voice chat also helps players relax and joke around while at the same time giving a ‘voice’ to that previously ‘anonymous’ player.
- Do events for your guild. My own organization runs 3 a week, covering all the bases in Guild Wars 2; sPvP, PvE, and WvW. All of this is to entice our members into working together as a team and each event is designed to appeal to a specific activity that hopefully everyone in the guild can find interesting. Ever run into a Guild in WvW? Its a scary thing what organization on a large scale can do to tip the balance in Guild Wars 2. These events are crucial for establishing your guild as the place to be during the week (literally and psychologically).
- Drama? a well managed online presence minimizes the impact of dramatic players. Mature officers are a great answer for that 12 year old trying to bring his XBOX Live presence into your organization. Make sure your leadership gets a long with each other and is on the same page with the goals your trying to accomplish. Communication is key. If you do happen to find a troublemaker in your midst, don’t hesitate to remove the culprit immediately. Explain to your membership why it happened in a transparent manner and you’ll see future instances of such trouble making disappear.
I’m sure their are other great tips of establishing a community, and while my suggestions aren’t limited to just GW2 they are what I’m playing right now! If you have any of your own tips, I’d love to hear them!
Till next time,