Why MMO Guilds Are Useless & 5 Ways to Improve Them

The Problem

One of the first things I do in any game is look for a guild. After all, playing an MMO by yourself is a waste of $15 per month. You pay to interact with others, so taking advantage of that should be the number one priority. Unfortunately, the process of finding a guild is a tedious and boring one, mostly due to how the mechanics work.

Guild recruitment is a rather nasty process in almost all MMOs. The procedure is simple, but it gives out so many false hits and poor guildmates that it’s a surprise it stays in its current state. For those who aren’t familiar or simply tune it out, here’s how you go recruiting: Players wishing to snag some new blood go to a populated region or server, open the chat that broadcasts to everyone, and starts spamming advertisements. These advertisements range in length and content, but they share a few universals. Promise of wealth and active players, and an urgent message to call now to get your prize.

The problem with these advertisements – and the notion of guild all-chat recruiting in general – is that you are scraping the bottom of the barrel. Without some sort of deeper connection to your guildmates, you are simply going to leave after you start to feel alienated. This is why largeĀ  guilds are usually centrally comprised of a group of people who are all intimately familiar with each other, often to the point of knowing each other in real life. We’ve all been there. I usually only join guilds created or run by people I already know outside of the game, and I can count the number of exceptions on a single hand.

High turnover is an even worse problem in games where guild membership carries no significant attachments. Guild Wars 2 allows players to jump from guild to guild and represent the one of their choice without abandoning previous guilds. While this looks great on paper, there’s very little incentive for a newbie to stay and contribute to a guild they just joined. Instead, the most lucrative course is to find an even bigger and better-equipped guild to latch on to. While it’s an especially notable problem in Guild Wars 2, it’s present in almost all MMOs.

There is also the issue of guild relevance. This problem is one that MMOs have actually been working on for a very long time, with different degrees of success. For the most part, guilds are irrelevant to the game at large, and players that are grouped up simply benefit from each other’s knowledge more than making the sort of impact you would expect out of a group of hardened, battle-ready heroes. While guilds are common and interesting, they have no real weight in breathing life to this world they are inhabiting.

The PvE side of the relevance coin is the more sinister of the two, as it’s not one that can be easily fixed. Guilds need to make their impact on the game world felt, but in doing so they can potentially alter the course of other players’ adventures in negative ways. The talents and upgrades of World of Warcraft are a start, but they don’t give guilds a real meaty way to show off their stuff. They just enable guilds to level up faster and get more loot. A guild that doesn’t have years of experience raiding will never claim those coveted and fancy server-first raid kills, so it would be nice to give them some way to distinguish themselves.

PvP problems are a lot easier to fix, although the balance most MMOs strike is currently a bit wonky. At the moment, traditional MMOs favor PvE endgame content over PvP endgame content. This leads to predictable player behaviors and population stagnation. After all, once I’ve played a raid for the tenth time I don’t really feel inclined to return. I can fight other players all day, though, thanks to their unpredictability and cleverness. You can’t replace a human enemy with an AI one. Not yet, anyway.

All of these issues boil down to a simple problem: Guilds need a reason to exist beyond being a social club. Social clubs are great fun, don’t get me wrong, but the potential of the MMO genre is to create entire worlds and stories out of nothing but a bare framework. In their current state, guilds can’t do that.

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7 Comments on Why MMO Guilds Are Useless & 5 Ways to Improve Them


On February 12, 2013 at 1:37 pm

James, you seem to be under the impression that, atleast on the social side, all guilds operate the same way. There are many guilds out there in all sorts of games that do make the players come to them through word of mouth or from a forum. They dont advertise themselves in open chat. They make players prove their worth before being accepted as a full-fledged member. Lets stop beating around the bush and call a spade a spade. These are “hardcore” guilds, a group of players that take the game WAAAY too seriously and for some reason you expect ALL guilds to adhere to this sort of mentality. If youre into this sort of thing fine, but expecting all guilds to operate like this is just silly.

Right now on the Harshlands server of PWI, there is a guild that exists simply to have fun with the game and be social. Yet, they control atleast a third of the map, dominating other guilds that had previously held parts of the map for atleast a year if not longer. Im talking about the type of guilds that expect their members to drop hundreds if not thousands of dollars in the cash shop to outfit their character. Yet they get spanked by a guild that, as you put it “scrapped the bottom of the barrel”.

Now, with that said. I do agree that there can be better ways for a guild master to keep track of his quality members beyond word of mouth. That there are ways a member can be recognized for their accomplishments past simple ranks that quite frankly dont really mean much and are typically handed out to suck ups. Take Flyff (I feel dirty just mentioning this game) for example, guilds level up by players sacrificing specific quest items to give the guild experience. The Guildmaster can easily track how much experience a member has contributed to the guild. Other games utilize a mentor system with the mentor receiving xp and gifts when the mentee reaches certain milestones. There’s no reason why there cant be a guild system similar to this.

As for guild recognition. In the game Airrivals (formerly known as Space Cowboy Online), every month there is an election with the players of the two factions voting for their next president. The president is typically the guild leader of the top performing guild of the previous month during the massisve PvP events. There are server wide alerts that inform players which guild contributed the most during these events, so the recognition is out there.

The point to this is, like many of your other “5 way to fix this” lists, the ideas are out there, the problem is theyre not getting the recognition it deserves because its not being utilized by the right games.

James Murff

On February 12, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Yeah, most of these things have been done before in some capacity or another. This article – and the series in general – is more to point out that these elements are floating out there in the MMO design ether and that designers should grab hold of them and use them.

As for the expectation of all guilds to operate under the “all-chat recruitment”: I state in the article that good guilds know each other outside of the game. Cohesive guilds are ones that are built upon recruitees finding recruiters, not the other way around. Perhaps I wasn’t clear that the outside-game recruitment methods give better-quality members. My suggestion is to enable a system of recruitment in-game that is similar to what you find outside of the game. You look for guilds you want to join, look at their membership and activity, read up on their recruitment application and details, and then apply. This places the burden of involvement on the recruitee, not the recruiter, which means that you are likely to get players that truly want to be a part of your guild.


On February 12, 2013 at 2:23 pm

My problem is that I simply hate people and want to be left alone. On second thought, that probably makes me not-so-ideal for an MMO player. I hated seeing guild chat, I hated being asked to go do something for someone else. I did get attached to my first WOW guild, when I actually made an attempt to get to know people and play the game with them – but after that, I just wanted left alone.

I’m just a bitter old man, I guess.


On February 13, 2013 at 2:54 am

@Quinsec i know this feeling, you leave boring people in your job to find the same in your game.


On February 13, 2013 at 3:32 am


Exactly, I play games to escape from monotony. I like feeling exciting and exceptional when I game. My MMO guild was just like work – make small talk until the next raid, listen to people’s questions about problems they’re having in the game, and show up to raid on a work schedule. Logging into my guild characters felt more like clocking in than it did embarking on an adventure. So, after awhile, I stopped joining guilds.


On February 13, 2013 at 10:01 am

I can sympathize the feeling. When i play mmo’s for the most part it’s because they have an interesting premise such as the secret world. This gets quickly old when you have some one spamming 50,000 gold free available at such website. Doesn’t help I’m single play oriented in the first place so interacting with other players is pretty far down on the list.


On February 14, 2013 at 1:28 am

Yeah the majority if not all of what this artical is wishing for is already in Rift.

I for one just want more complex guild options like in eve online but in a fantasy based mmo.

I don’t think there is a single mmo out there with as much depth as eve but everyone else is accomplishing the same thing threw vary simple methods which isn’t exactly that fun.