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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For – Guild Advancement is a Double Edged Sword

When Blizzard first announced the new Guild Advancement system I was giddie with anticipation. I had always championed the concept of rewarding guilds, and those who stay in them, for sticking it out and having a means to take a measure of their accomplishments. I also liked the concept of better tools for guilds as I have always felt that they are an integral part of playing a game like WoW. So why is it now that I look at the new system out of the corner of my eye and a frown on my face?

Been waiting for Years

            WoW for the most part was my introduction to MMORPG game play. Except for a couple of short jaunts into EverQuest and Star Wars Galaxies, World of Warcraft was where I found my love and passion for this game genre. With that in mind also realize that since the beginning of my time in Azeroth I have for the most part been a guild Leader. This is in no way an indication of my excellent leadership abilities or some higher purpose as an organizer, in fact I was sorta thrown into the concept and never aimed at being a community leader.
             When I started playing WoW I joined a guild that my real life brother already had established and because of personal life time issues, was having a hard time of giving it the time it needed. I soon found myself co-leading and then leading this guild. When I joined the guild it was rather small, less than two dozen players, but soon would swell to over a hundread, but after some time and some minor squabbling with original members, I realized that this wasn’t mine and set about the process of forming my own guild.
            I formed my new guild around the same time as Wrath was being announced and most of the members of my present guild came to the new guild with me. We continued to see success and before long our guild sported over 500 toons spanning 300+ accounts. We were well known on our server as thee casual guild that did fun stuff and raided to.
            Ever since that time I have always been waiting for the announcement from Blizzard of something like the guild advancement system. I wanted a better way to enhance the guild experience and promote, what was to me, the coolest guild around. When I received a Beta invite to Cataclysm and heard about the addition of a guild leveling system I was down right excited. But that was then and now things are very, very different. 

A Beginning and End

            Like most guild leaders who have been doing this for some time, real life difficulties and available time forced me to play WoW less and less. Because of this fact my guild suffered in my absence, including one period that spanned several months. The once large guild was now a dwindled entity of its former self, but was still maintained it core group of players. Other factors lessened its size (including the death of WoW casual guilds as a whole) and by the time Cataclysm was announced we were a small collection of veteran members waiting for a new start.
            It was decided by most of us that we needed a new start, so with heavy hearts we ditched our old guild and formed a brand new guild just before the release of Cata. Turns out this was the worst possible time in WoW to form a new guild and I wonder how many guilds have had success that were created around this time frame. We quickly discovered that the system of guild advancement and perks was working as intended, maybe to good. Potential members were hesitant to join an upstart guild for fear of losing the time invested in their present guild. In other words once you were in a guild for a long time the cost for leaving the guild has become to high.
            Now this far into the expansion I wonder if anyone, by there own accord, would choose to leave a well established guild. If you are in a strong guild with a large assortment of perks unlocked, would you leave it now to join a new guild? I have come to find out that not many would. The first question I am often asked by a potential recruit is, “What rank is your guild?” Now this is an appropriate question for someone to ask as it is vital for them to determine a guild’s strength, but it also eliminates you as a potential guild if that number is not high enough. Can you imagine being a new guild with a rank of 1? Talk about a daunting task for a fledgling guild to overcome.
            Before the new advancement system this was never a problem as the reasons for staying with a guild were only superficial and had very little impact on the game itself. Now to walk away from your guild has real consequences to it. The funny thing is I actually like it that way as there should be something to lose and this is exactly what I have always wanted, but the side effect of this is that guild leaders now have a lot to hang over their member’s heads and newer guilds don’t stand a chance. The price for our new guild is that it has ended just as soon as it has started with very few new members and no real chance to catch the guilds that have already started out strong.

What to do

            So now I am the guild leader of a very small guild with very little chance of making it to the bigs. Could I work hard at it and make it work? Absolutely anything is possible, but the question is do I want to? The time, blood, sweat and tears required nowadays to form and grow a guild is a huge amount as opposed to the days before guild advancement and at this stage I wonder if I am committed to sacrificing so much.
            As for the game I do believe that the new guild system will ultimately prove to be a negative influence and be a contributing factor in its decline. Now when a player gets tired of being in their guild or their guild folds, the thought of having to start all over again may prove to be too much and just leaving the game entirely will appear to be a  more appealing option. I believe Blizzard has also noticed some negative effects as recent announcements about a proposed “looking for guild” interface are in the works.
In conclusion I have definitely learned a valuable lesson in all this. Just because something sounds great doesn’t mean that it is suited for you or the game you love. I still like the guild advancement system, but I think maybe it’s just a little bit too hardcore for me. While I like the way it keeps people from jumping from guild to guild, I don’t think it should be such a high price to pay for someone if they don’t like where they are. Lastly I hope some changes are made to the system to give newer guilds a chance and not be the nail in the coffin.

Visit Blizzards blog post about this here. Some of the comments being left are very interesting.

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