Why MMO Guilds Are Useless & 5 Ways to Improve Them
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 large 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.