ArenaNet had made an impressive trailer of Guild Wars 2 first shown at the Gamescom convention and those of us Guild Wars fans who have been waiting to see how the newer version of the game would turn out had their breath taken away. I was amazed at the sheer scale of Tyria, only a glimpse of which was shown in the original trailer. As impressive as the trailer was, what excited me even more and made my non-GW and non-MMORPG friends sit up and pay attention was the manifesto video released at the same time by ArenaNet. One word used consistently in the manifesto video, and to great effect, was ‘innovation’. After listening to the ArenaNet team members speak with such passion about how they are going to try to innovate everything we take for granted in MMORPGs, some of us were sold right-away, some shook their heads in disbelief, while some chose to remain suspect.
From the time the manifesto video has been released, ArenaNet has never stopped releasing details about Guild Wars 2, proving with each new release of information what they meant exactly when they said they are aspiring to do something different in the MMORPG genre. Experiencing the game world through dynamic events instead of the tried-and-tested but tedious quest system, dynamic combat that emphasises defence as much as offence, varied character backgrounds with SP RPG-like deep personal stories, persistent changes to the state of the world, no monthly fee, skills that tie to the weapons in use, no hard Holy Trinity requirement, underwater combat that is both challenging and fun – the list goes on and on. Over a period of two years, ArenaNet managed to convert the suspects into believers by releasing plenty of game-play videos(not CGI cinematic) and proving that they weren’t bluffing in the manifesto video.
We don’t have a lot of information about some aspects of the game – like WvWvW, structured PvP, guild system, eighth profession – because ArenaNet feel that they should talk about them when they are happy about their final design. Fair enough. Some information that was shared with the community about WvWvW and one structured PvP map was received overwhelmingly positively by the community but the response was quite mixed about what little was revealed about the Guild Wars 2 guild system(GW2GS from here on). Eric shared with us at the panel at PAX 2011 the following details about the guild system:
- Guild membership is account-wide(just like it is in Guild Wars). If you join a guild with one character, no other character from the same account needs to be invited – they are automatically part of the same guild.
- A character can join multiple guilds. If you join guild A on one character, you can join another guild B on that same character without leaving guild A. And all the characters from the guild automatically become part of guild B. Then you can go on and join guild C without leaving guild A or B(you get the idea). Newly created characters can choose to whether to join the guilds or not that the account is part of, with no need for an invitation.
- You can choose to represent any one, and only one, of the guilds your account is a member of(guild A or B or C) at any given time. You can also chose to represent none of the guilds and play in the peace and quite of your personal mental space. Whichever guild you are representing currently, you see members of that guild on the map as your guild members, you see the guild chat of that guild(and that guild only), and any influence points you might earn by playing the game(dynamic events, WvWvW, etc.) go to that guild.
None of the information shared by ArenaNet about Guild Wars 2 was received with such varied reactions as the guild system. Most of the concerns raised, and accolades showered, make sense to me to some extent. This is new ground ArenaNet is trying to hit, another innovative concept in the MMORPG genre(only FF XI has a similar guild system so far?), and I will go ahead and declare that I fully support the feature in its current form and would love to see how it will shape up when the game is released and the guild system is put to test by tens of thousands of players. Caveat is that we still don’t have all the details and some of what we currently know may go through tweaks before a full reveal is done.
An example of a major concern raised by the community that I don’t fully agree with
GW2 Guild System(GW2GS from here on) destroys the close bonds that are shared by members when they can join only one guild.
Words like guild pride, loyalty, commitment are thrown around when raising this concern. It is not totally without the merit but let us try to think about it with a clear mind. There is nothing stopping me from making a guild that is built on the foundation of strong kinship and I can make it clear in my guild description. It is then up to the players to decide if my guild will be a good fit for them or not. GW2GS doesn’t force players to join multiple guilds. If the concern now is that a player who doesn’t share our guild philosophy might join our guild and then be part of other guilds also behind our backs…this is a common problem in all MMORPGs(i.e. players joining a guild by pretending to be a good fit while they very well know that they are not) and is not specific to GW2GS. Players lie about their attitude towards raiding, their helping nature, hardcore vs. laid-back attitude, past game-play experiences, how prone they are to create loot drama etc. The number of guilds they are part of is going to be just one more thing they can lie about. The solution is to screen the players thoroughly during the application process, observe then during the probation period and then over an extended period of time. Most of them get caught sooner or later about whatever they have been lying about. Isn’t this why leading a guild is sometimes so stressful?
In any case, there is nothing stopping from the player alt-hopping and being part of another guild. Nothing is changing in GW2 if you think about it that way. A player can even switch to another game or a real life activity entirely. In the end, it is not the token membership as told by the guild roster that should be the basis of the measure of a player’s character. Form a relationship with the player and educate yourself about how committed he/she is to the long-term goals of the guild. Decent players take time out of their real-life(when reasonable), from other games and from other guilds’ activities when they know that your guild really needs them. A selfish player may just logout or just be there during a guild activity in the body but be mentally absent; what good is it then if the roster says that he can belong to your guild only?
An example of a major concern raised by the community that I kind of agree with
If player A needs a run through Sorrow’s Embrace dungeon and a friend from player A’s second guild whispers him/her that they are planning to do it but player A’s current guild is gearing up to do Ascalon Catacombs, what is the player going to do? Do Catacombs even if he personally needs a different dungeon? Ditch the current guild and switch to the second one? Isn’t this going to result in hurt feelings and awkward relationships? Even full-blown drama? Yes it is definitely possible, to deny it is to close our eyes and pretend that the problem doesn’t exist. Again the players can be divided into two broad groups to try to understand the dilemma. Players who are consistently selfish will keep hopping guilds and are generally “unavailable” except when they need something from the dungeon run. They never run with the guild if they don’t get anything out of it. This kind of behaviour is common in all MMOs and we know how to identify and part away from such players. Then there are players who believe in compromises and will sometimes chose to run the dungeon that they are in mood for and other times will decide to go with the guild even if they don’t need the run. These same players will honour the commitment to a guild whenever a schedule was made for an activity well in advance. GW2GS is not going to change the way these two kind of players are going to conduct themselves. That said, it is a reality that when a player justifiably(i.e. with good excuse) decides to do something else(with a different guild) when the guild leadership wants them for a guild activity, some of the members are bound to get disappointed and judge the player way too harshly. There is going to be a lot of friction because of such incidents. But I look at the bigger picture, the good that GW2GS can do to the player community, and I find the strength to face the minor problems it may cause.
An example of types of accolades showered on GW2GS that I fully agree with
GW2GS is going to solve a long standing problem commonly found in most MMORPGs(not much different from “LF Tank & Healer” for over 30 minutes problem): Guild systems in games do not mimic the social structure that has evolved for the betterment of the human societies over a period of thousands of years. Human being is a social animal, most of us do not want to be tied down to a single social circle. Lot of us have only one job and one life partner but when it comes to social groups we generally have more than one. Our own family can be considered a social group; then we have extended family, close friends, work group, local club, online communities, charity organisation, the list is too long or short depending on an individual’s personality. Do you treat guilds in an MMORPG akin to a full-time job or a life partner? Then you are a perfect fit for the guilds that are based on the philosophy of full commitment to one guild: search them and apply to them and hopefully you will have long and lasting relationships. Do you see a guild system as a social group? Shop for guilds that satisfy your different needs and shares your varied ambitions and apply to them and hopefully you will get the most out of what the game has to offer. The situation might look a bit stressful to the guild officers in this second scenario with players guild-hopping so conveniently(only future will tell if our reservations as officers are true) but it is a win-win situation for the guild members. Note that looking at guilds as social group doesn’t mean a lack of loyalty or commitment. In real life we respect people who attend to their multiple responsibilities/interests dutifully – be it family, work, charity or Golf, and those who dedicate themselves to just one passion – art or cure for cancer or their child’s education. A lousy person’s full commitment isn’t what any guild should desire for over a responsible person’s.
Overall I anticipate some minor problems with Guild Wars 2′s guild system in its current form but the advantages far outweigh them and I am really excited to experience the level of freedom and possibilities offered by it.