Let it mean something

I want a MMO with guilds that mean a damn. Replace ‘guilds’ with corporation, player associations, hunting group… whatever tickles your game bone. I’ll use ‘guilds’.

I explain. Most games I’ve seen treat guilds basically like a larger party, and that’s about it. Your typical game does not contemplate the possibility for guilds to radically alter gameplay itself, neither for that guild, other guilds and your vanilla unguilded player. Your typical game goes by one thing most of the time: guild size. And that’s about it. Guilds are not setup with the power to influence events, do not grant any palpable advantages to its members other than a few cosmetics here and there. No bonuses, no penalties. Nothing that directly affects the game world, player abilities or player performance. Guilds are classically seen and guild mechanics typically coded with only one governing condition; that they are a collection of players under one cosmetic banner and nothing more. In reality, when the player truly meets and intersects with gameplay itself, that player might as well be not guilded. It makes no difference at all. Players do not kill monsters better or faster by being or not being in a guild. Players gain no special abilities by being guilded. In essence, the main problem is that guilds are largely irrelevant to gameplay itself, whereas guilds are one of the most important things, conceptually, for the players themselves.

Why this disconnect? Why is it that guilds, one of the most important game ideas for the players themselves, one that they devote so much mind time to, is so irrelevant to gameplay proper and affects so little of it? There are exceptions of course. EVE being the most salient one, I think. Corporations in EVE give their players a lot of advantages, because they have been given the freedom to do so in code by the designers. Corporations in EVE are the closest thing to the kind of guilds I’d like to see, and that’s good, but I think we can take it further. I want to see it taken further.

How about this? The setting of the game could be anything. Let’s go with a space-based MMO. How about the idea of member thresholds, or ‘brackets’ to begin with? Suppose in this imaginary MMO, players are able to learn trading or economics as their profession. Wouldn’t it stand to reason, then, that guilds with a large percentage of ‘traders’ or ‘economists’ in its ranks would do better business than those with fewer members of that kind? Wouldn’t it make sense that this guild would be able to get better prices at vendors for its members?

And you can bracket this easily. Say, if a guild has 10 ‘Economists’, they get a guild-wide bonus of 5% better transactions with vendors. At 20 ‘Economists’, the guild bank can be transformed from simply a bigger storage box for items, to a bank proper, able to offer accounts for guilded and non-guilded players alike, issue guild bonds, offer loans, etc. At 30 ‘Economists’, the guild can choose to go public, and is able to issue shares, receive investments and have a board of directors. And so on.

You don’t like money? Fine. We can do this with anything else. Due to the combined pool of experience and knowledge guild members have and offer to their guilds (which games always make abstract, and for good reason), we can say that the guild that has 10 ‘tanks’ grants a 1-2% better defense rating to its members guild-wise. A guild with 10 ‘snipers’ grants 1% more ranged damage to all its members. A guild with 10 Rogues allows more agility or stealth to all its members. You get the idea.

We can take this a bit further, even. Imagine this MMO has a factional setting, much like WoW, with two or more factions. It is conceivable that these factions would have departments, agencies or ‘guilds’ themselves. Government divisions, which essentially act like guilds, but are just game mini-factions. NPC-controlled guilds that control and guide their particular area of jurisdiction and expertise. The blacksmiths, the scientists, the faction’s navy, army, etc. Therefore it’s not much of a jump to let player guilds develop special relationships with these guilds, depending on the player guilds’ member make up. For example, it’s conceivable and conceptually-sound that a guild which has 20 or more ship pilots would have a stronger voice in the game world than a guild with none. So the guild with 20 ship pilots can talk to the faction’s navy and get guild-wide missions from them. Or from the faction’s department of transportation and enter into periodical shipping contracts delivered to them. Or just get an official shipping license that allows the guild transports to be used commercially, for other players in the game to move goods that are too big or too many to use simple mailing systems. The longer player guilds maintain a successful relation with these bigger, overarching NPC guilds, they would have access to special rewards. In essence, you’d be taking individual player grinding and turning it into a distributed guild effort. This is no different than “Gather 50 million dead bunnies for the Thorium Brotherhood”, only that it’s done via quests and the formal founding of a relation between the player and NPC guild, with guild-wide rewards.

You can go further even, but I don’t want to be writing all day. So, what does all this accomplish? It creates guilds that mean something and end up having a concrete, definite and very palpable presence and influence in the game world. Guilds that amount to and matter more than a tabard and a name. It turns gameplay in its head, shuffles it, and rearranges it into something better.

To begin with, recruiting would be much, much more important. It wouldn’t be a matter of just getting 10 people to run the 10-mans. Guilds would be looking to recruit specific individuals, with specific skills and abilities, to add to the whole in the way the guild leadership sees fit. See, it becomes no longer about the gear the player has, but about the player’s chosen professions, what the character knows to do and can offer to the guild. Guilds would no longer be looking for “a warrior with T1 gear at least”, but for specialists. Gear won’t matter, the players will. Imagine this ad in the game world:

“Monkeys of Trantor, Inc. has openings for 2 (two) graduated Economists, with a 200 rank or better in Interstellar Trade and Customs Law. Hiring is immediate, those two openings needed to land contracts with the Acracia Department of Shipping and Trade. Come join the fastest-growing shipping corporation and apply now.”

Tell me that doesn’t tickle your fanny right there. It wouldn’t be all about gear that comes and goes and is always replaced. Guilds would be looking for knowledge and skill sets. Investing heavily in one’s crafting career or profession would have much more benefits than simply being able to make the ocassional rare item. Experts on different fields would be as sought after as the guys with the meanest ships or the sharpest swords. Plus, it forces guilds to be serious about their recruitment, and specialize their rosters according to their plan, and what they want to do. Smaller guilds would be more focused, excelling at one thing they do, while bigger guilds would be able to expand and cover different areas… or specialize themselves and create a mega-monster guild of Traders, for example. The beauty of this is that this super-guild of only Traders, yeah, they can get contracts smaller guilds only dream about, and they get all the trading and money bonuses in the world… but they didn’t recruit any military-skilled players, so they are forced to seek other player guilds with this experience, and enter into contracts with them for the protection and escort of their shipments. Essentially, moving the economy and the dynamics of the world away from being based on random drops of gear, and close to players planning their own skills, and guilds specializing into what they want to do. Sounds a bit like life, so I can see why it wouldn’t be too appealing for some.

Like I said earlier, of all, EVE comes closer to this, but still falls short. It’s time to let guilds mean something, and have a serious effect in gameplay itself. Cookie-cutter, bland guilds only make a cookie-cutter, bland experience in the playerspace. I think it’s about time to kick it up a notch. I’d love to see it.


1 Response to “Let it mean something”

  1. 1 RandomLurker September 30, 2007 at 10:42 pm

    (Notes: Currently playing EVE. have played WoW and Puzzle Pirates, as well as dipped into a fatty swath of smaller games)

    Indeed, guilds (seems to be the going term right now) should be more than a chat room and a tag after your name. However, the problem I see with your idea is that it would lead to massive, half-the-players-on-the-server zerg guilds, reducing them to just another set of buffs. There should be advantages to small guilds at least (perhaps the smaller group of economists is more agile than the fatty hundred-man bureaucracy?)

    What guilds should do is open up opportunities – guild quests perhaps? A tie in to that persistent, player affected world people are going on about at great length – while a single player is almost never going to be able to affect the world, a guild should be able to actually /do something/

    This is one of the things I really like about EVE – it’s the only game where there’s a /great war/ involving thousands of players split along alliance lines. You have massive battles and a massive level of cooperation between players because everything takes so much effort.

    The only downside is that while this great war is wonderful and all, the only product of it is a few dots changing color, and a new topic to smack on the forums.
    But if the game provided some more concrete evidence of a victory, now that’s a good incentive to guild up and work together.

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