Why MMO Guilds Are Useless & 5 Ways to Improve Them
That isn’t to say that guilds will forever be stuck in the rut of irrelevance and meaninglessness. There are plenty of solutions to give guilds the teeth they need to chew through a game and come out the other end looking mighty fine. All designers have to do is give them a try.
1.) Have a dedicated recruitment system for guilds to reach out to players
This mechanic is one that has already been set into place by a number of MMOs, most notably by EVE Online. It’s a genius one. In essence, give players a forum to browse through in-game where they can look at guilds and apply to ones with open registration. This makes joining a guild more important to both the recruiter and the recruitee. The recruiter knows that the new guildmate wants to be a part of the guild and wasn’t just saying yes to some random all-chat message. The recruitee feels like they picked out the right guild for themselves, instead of sifting through the recruitment lotto and hoping for the best. The end result is a player more dedicated to the furthering of the guild than those just randomly grabbed off the street.
This also has the added effect of informing players more about the kind of guild they are joining. Players will be able to join guilds that fit their tastes, from role-playing to raids to casual reputation grinds. The more informed a player is of their guild’s activities and goals, the more likely they are to stay.
2.) Incentivize the teaching and inclusion of new recruits
The most problematic thing about recruiting a new guy is that he doesn’t know anything about your guild, and usually knows nothing about the kind of content you are running. The best way MMOs can fix this is by giving guilds rewards for helping the new guy. My suggestion on how to do this is to increase his explicit value to the guild, rather than an implicit value like player skills or personality.
Make it so that a player who has done dungeon runs and been in meetings has a higher “value” to the guild. Maybe a fully-trained player gets extra gold with all quests, and that gold is deposited straight into the guild bank. Maybe taking new players along on dungeon runs increases everyone’s gold drops until the player has beaten the dungeon a few times with his current group. In short, make his value explicit. Otherwise, he’ll just be passed over.
3.) Make guild membership a significant part of a character
The wording on this suggestion is a bit vague, and the reason for that is simple: I’m not entirely sure how to approach this. However, there are a number of possibilities that one can consider without outright forcing players to stay in guilds they join.
My personal suggestion is to emphasize guild participation in the way a character interacts with the NPC and environment. The representation systems in traditional MMOs tend to do this, but it should be a little more drastic than simply gaining reputation or guild currency. Make NPCs and enemies respond to a player based on their guild allegiance. Make it so that a questgiver will acknowledge the guild that a player is a part of, or a pack of enemies ignore a player because their guild is on good standing with the enemy faction. Make it clear to the game world that this is a guildie!
4.) Add guild-customizable PvE fortresses
This is the big suggestion out of these five, and it’s the most problematic. Guilds need some way to compare their PvE clout with other guilds besides gear. Anyone can grind for gear, after all. It’s just a matter of time spent, which is not indicative of the skills of the group. Thus, I think guilds should be able to create their own little PvE fiefdoms. A form of passively-competitive PvE, if you will.
That is to say, guilds should be able to create maps and fortresses where they determine the enemies and (maybe in an indirect way) the resources. Other guilds can then come and trawl through the guild’s PvE content and compare it to their own. Think of it as the Foundry system in Star Trek Online. Players create the worlds, other players visit and destroy them.
In addition, guilds could use the fortresses to show off their achievements. A “Hall of Heroes” which shows off all the achievements of the guild and who participated in their completion would be a great way to pretty up a fortress and add some flavor for the newcomers. Armor and weapon rooms where guilds can show off all the slick gear they’ve accumulated together. This system of bragging would give players a visual reason to participate in their guild’s progress, and when combined with PvE customization it could make for one really interesting dungeon!
5.) Give guilds greater control over PvP infrastructure
Another EVE Online suggestion? By golly, it sure is! This is one mechanic that never fails to please, though. Games that have player-alterable landscapes always turn out more interesting than those that don’t. Give me the power to create towns, merchants, and infrastructure. Give other players the power to tear it down and claim it for themselves. The struggle over resources and land is the basest of all violent human urges, after all. Give players some ways to mark that land as their own besides a flag on a pre-built parapet, and you’ll be in for some really dynamic PvP.
The gist is that guilds need to be more appealing and friendly to new players. Make players want to join guilds. Push them into groups formed with other like-minded players. Give guilds the power to alter – even if just a bit – the landscape of your world. The end result will always be interesting, and that’s what games should always strive for.
Have any other suggestions? Not fond of mine? Let me know in the comments below! I’m reading every single one.