Why MMO Guilds Are Useless & 5 Ways to Improve Them

The Solution

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.

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

Axetwin

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.

Quinsec

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.

Goner

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.

Quinsec

On February 13, 2013 at 3:32 am

@Goner

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.

folklore

On February 13, 2013 at 10:01 am

@Quinsec
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.

Luther

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.