Council Chambers: Breaking and Fixing Things
A week or two ago, BioWare announced plans for an upcoming Guild Summit, to gather leaders from a number of the more famous guilds and the community as a whole to talk about the status of guilds in The Old Republic. AAJ will have two members there – Reedyn, our Healing columnist, will be there on behalf of his guild, and I will be on site representing Ask A Jedi – so in lieu of this week’s advice, I would like to ask all of our readers out there what questions you have for the BioWare team that I can present on your behalf, or what information you are hoping to get out of the summit so I’ll know what to look and listen for.
Please post any questions or issues you want to know more about at the summit in the comments below, and I promise I will gather them all up and see what I can do about getting input. We will be soaking and poking throughout as much of the information as we can while on site, bringing you as much news as possible about the plans BioWare has for guilds in TOR, and also asking any questions or raising any concerns you have about guilds as well.
From my perspective, I’m really looking forward to learning more about the overall plan and visions for guilds and communities within The Old Republic. I am as excited as the next person about the possibility of guild banks and guild housing or ships, so I will definitely be on the lookout to learn more about these features. I would also like to hear if they intend to implement a guild leveling system, as I have some fairly strong – and not favorable – opinions on these based on my experiences managing a guild elsewhere when these were rolled out. Allow me to say a bit more on that, as an example of a “good idea gone horribly awry”…
You Broke It!
It struck me as one of those ideas that seemed like a perfect idea at the time, but then when implemented began displaying flaws almost immediately. For instance, in our case – as a very active, albeit smaller (~50 players) – guild, we were able to reach maximum level and secure all the nice perqs for doing so within a reasonable amount of time. Good news, right? Turned out….not so much. Between the leveling system and the guild finder, the system shifted to a point where guild loyalty was nearly non-existent for new members of the community. After all, why stay with any guild the first time something doesn’t work out in your favor if it’s so easy to find a new one?
The leveling system and the finder may have been a boon for the casual player that doesn’t read forums or really want to seek out a good guild home, but it’s ease of use and the massive feeding-frenzy it generated among the hundreds of guilds all desperately trying to recruit on a server made it a real headache for leaders. On top of that, minimal reputations required to buy alt-leveling equipment also really impacted the ability of guilds to recruit and retain active members. What I noticed in our case is that recruitment patterns shifted dramatically – in 5 years, I would say we managed to retain about 75% of people we recruited initially, with the highest rate of people leaving being within the first week they joined. This makes sense – usually people know fairly quickly whether a guild provides what they are looking for or not, and if it does not then they should keep looking for one that might.
When the guild leveling and finders were rolled out, this pattern shifted dramatically – for one, retention rates of new members dropped exponentially, to where post-guild finder I would say we only retained maybe 25% of the people we recruited. Even more startling to our officers, those we retained exhibited a very consistent pattern of being extremely active for a few weeks (which corresponded roughly with when you hit a certain reputation with a guild), and then they would vanish, never to be seen again – or once in a very blue moon, for a few minutes and then logging right back out again. While we never were able to say for certain, our hunch had always been people joined high-level guilds to buy heirlooms, then quit playing once they had obtained them. It doesn’t make sense to quit a guild when there is a reputation system involved, unless you’re the sort of person who really wants just one main character or toon to focus on.
Now – maybe these were patterns unique to our guild. However – I don’t think they are. As you may have guessed from the column content, I stay fairly active in the guild leadership community. I’m a regular reader of other guild leadership blogs and columns, and I definitely read a lot about other guilds having remarkably similar situations to ours in terms of recruitment challenges and member retention. The system had swung to dramatically favor individual players – which is fine – but in a way that very negatively impacted the guilds themselves in trying to provide a stable community for groups of players.
I Think She Can Still Fly, Captain
Personally, I would go so far as to say that the combination of the guild leveling system and the in-game guild finder system really created a negative dichotomy that affected guilds in a way they may never recover. I do not consider myself an alarmist, or one to nostalgically view older periods of a game as a more perfect time just because they were older and more familiar, nor am I one to scream, “You broke it! I’m quitting” at designers or developers when they implement something that went against my own desires in the game. (See for example, recent changes to biochem, slicing, or the lack of properly fixing Mortar Volley for troopers compared to the “equivalent” Bounty Hunter skill Death from Above.) I’m not personally happy about any of these, though I understand them to some degree and I’ll keep happily playing TOR even in spite of them. The guild leveling and recruitment system combination though – that is something that as a guild leader I really found, as much as I hate to say it, “game breaking”. So as a guild leader in TOR, I desperately, desperately hope that one of BioWare’s intentions is not to implement a similar system for all the issues outlined above. It may seem like a good idea, but the implementation clearly needs work.
Duct Tape Fixes Eerything
The guild fixes I would like to see are a better control functionality for leaders and officers, an in-game scheduling calendar, true server forums, and guild housing – in that order, as well. So what about the rest of you? What are your most-needed fixes in TOR for guilds, or those things that you really hope BioWare does not implement in TOR?