Feb 16, 2012

Posted by in Council Chambers | 32 Comments

Council Chambers: Breaking and Fixing Things

AAJ Goes To Austin

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.

Questions, Please!

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?

  1. Guild housing, yes, I’d like that addressed specifically. I’d like personal housing as well, as often with guild housing, you can’t tinker and move things around (excellent money sink also, owning a home, as well as buying/making furniture pieces). The sooner that BW knows people want some housing, the better.

    That’s the primary reason I left Trion’s game after 6 month’s play time and they still haven’t put housing in. It is also why I do not stick around in WoW, for longer than one month a year. There’s nothing there to make me feel like I have a HOME, and games like this, either for guilds or individuals, need to have the feeling of having a home. Otherwise, like right now, we sleep in our ships like trailer park folk, or sleep in cantinas. Fun. Only not.

    Gathering places via guild housing would be nice to hold meetings in, and create solidarity.

    I’d be interested as well, if someone asks them if the legendary xp in place might eventually be manipulated by BW so it can be used by officers and guild leaders for guild xp and guild perks.

    Thanks, and have loads of fun, there. :)

  2. gamerladyp says:

    Please do give them feedback and dire warnings on a guild leveling system. It became a nightmare in WoW, ruined our cross guild alliances, made play feel a lot like running a checklist/job. So I really worry about that kind of system.

    Would love to know what changes they plan for the guild UI, particularly for right clicking on names in the list and having additional functions like invite to group or invite to Operation.

    Would love to know about any in game tools for scheduling and signing up for Operations.

    How much information do they plan to include about guilds and their members within the SWTOR website (i.e. any kind of WoW Armory equivalent DB?)

    Will the guild bank have built in security features to allow levels of access tied to having a security key to protect against hacked accounts?

    What are their perceived benefits to being in a guild besides guild chat?

    • This! It’s something I will prosecute myself, as I’m veeery worried by something similar being implemented as well! :)

    • Having had two guild banks cleaned out, yes, please ask about securing items and also some kind of tracking system for withdrawls. Maybe only available to Lieutenant and above.
      It would also be neat, but I have never seen it implemented, to have some kind of buff for time spent in guild seniority. Even cooler would be to have that buff combine inside parties and raids to unlock special drops, guild items and personal gear.

  3. When are we getting mouseover capability and a combat log?

  4. Regarding the guild finder, I don’t think it is a problem. The problem is the guilds themselves. If you let in everybody, you will get a lot of idiots. My guild for example is based on a system like motorcycle clubs like the hells angels. You only get in if somebody from inside vouches for you. I did that only with people I met in real life. Thus we have a very strong community, since years. And for sure my guild will never die.

    • Lady Republic says:

      This is fairly similar to what we do in our case, as well – with the exception of the real life part. So it definitely helps to be picky.

      That said, in our case – it wasn’t so much we let in a bunch of idiots, is that people seemed very nice, but – they just never really put down roots or bothered to get to know people as well, like people in the pre-guild finder days. When it comes down to it though, it’s anecdotal – we don’t know 100% what caused the change, but a lot of the folks in other guilds I talked to saw similar patterns emerge post-finder, even with screening out 95% of the applicants.

  5. Will they improve the visibility of roles and permissions for non-guild leaders? I’m an officer in a guild, and as such have the ability to promote members to almost all ranks. But unless I am missing something, I cannot see what permissions I am giving people by granting a particular rank. It would be nice to not have to use an outside resource, or ask the GM, what he defined as the difference between say Member and Lieutenant is. This will be especially important once guild banks come into play.

  6. What we really miss is a guild event calender inside the game.
    Now we trying to help us self with our website calender but then you need to add people in groups, give them permission ect. A lot of work to maintain. If we could have a guild event calender inside the game every one that is in the guild (maybe depends with rank you have) can sign up when they leave the guild also solve as the left. ect.

    • Lady Republic says:

      Yes – this is very true for us as well. The only up side is that it definitely gives more incentive for members to go to the forums – but it also means we’re doing a lot more alt-tabbing in game to go back, see who signed up or is on standby, etc.

      • I end up having my laptop alongside my main machine, since ToR has to redraw the ingame screen each time I alt tab. A rudimentary in game calendar would help.

  7. Another point is travel, if you go from the fleet to ilum for example, when you reach the ilum planet with your ship, then you still need to go from ship to orbatal space station (in the spacestation, need to click to use kind of elevator), then need to run to the other site too smaller ship to arrive at the end on ilum. And this you have a several planet, are there planes to make it a little bit easier and faster ? especially on ilum ?

    • Lady Republic says:

      Well – while I whole-heartedly agree with the sentiment, I would presume the intent is to focus on guild aspects of the game. This one’s annoying, but unless I am missing something – not really specific to guilds. ;)

      • Unless, of course, the guild capital ship had a docking bay for member ships, with members traveling with the capital ship to planets for guild raids…

  8. Some questions I gave to my guild leader. Ask any that you find worthy.

    Will there be mounts that are interesting?

    Will there be a beastmaster class?

    Will they allow defections? (I’d love to tank as an inquisitor (I hate throwing rocks))

    When will we get guild leveling?

    When will they add more companions?

    Do they have customization expansions planned? (dyes/finishes, turning normal gear models into custom pieces? modifiable mounts (change thrusters/nose/material look)

    When will they fix Essles HM?

    When will they add more interesting titles? (full exploration/every quest per planet/ all datacrons/ going dark 5 and light 5 on the same toon)

    When will they expand the achievement system?

    When will they add rewards for completing achievements?

    When will they fix tanking companions? (have less damage mitigation than Sentinels(that is impressive))

    When will they add more species? (cathar/voss models look great)

    When will they add more freedom? (any race on either faction/ defections/ cross faction trading/ cross faction partying)

    When will our speeders learn how to accelerate past snail speed?

    When will they add more to crafting?

    Why does artifice make enhancements and shields/generators and not cybertech? why does cybertech make armoring and not armormech/synthweave?

    Why is it more rewarding to level via pvp than pve?

    Why don’t they nerf pvp gear and have it buffed in pvp areas? Anything with expertise gets a 50% boost while in a pvp zone (warzones/battlefields (pirates den/ left half of ilum)

    Will they allow neutral classes to play either faction (smuggler for empire and bounty hunter for the republic) (imperial trooper/ republic recon)?

    • Also I would really like some zones that are really nice looking and great for RPing. Every planet I have visited rarely has any zones that is either filled with hostiles or “peaceful” Everywhere is plagued with war and filled with enemies…. I know many people in my guild are looking for a nice lake or peaceful building in a nice forest for them to RP. All they have been doing is RPing in cantinas which translates to RPing as bar patrons…. want some real RPing in real zones.

    • Lady Republic says:

      As I mentioned to Elvis – I’ve gotten the impression is to focus on what guild aspects of the game they can improve, not so much an open forum on any aspect of the game to improve. So I’ll bring the list, but I’m going to expect they’ll be looking only for guild-related questions.

  9. Please ask what they plan to do to make the other crafting Professions viable at endgame. Specifically Armstech, Armormech, Synthweaving, and Artifice. Nobody ever mentions Armstech and Artifice and Bioware often doesn’t mention them in comments.

  10. People. This is *not* a forum for complaining about whatever you don’t like about the game. It’s about guilds. Specifically.

    Honestly, I’m not picky, guilds don’t need much to operate smoothly. Give me a better guild management UI and an in-game calendar and I’ll be happy.

    I’m actually somewhat leery that guild capital ships could segregate the game and make it more difficult to find groups, so it’s worth asking BW how they intend to improve group-finding in a scenario that should inevitably see the standard populations of the Fleet decline.

    Not a Dungeon Finder in the late WoW style. Even a simple galactic-wide /lfg channel (turned on by default, off via option) would be a help.

  11. Other than the tag above your head and a dedicated chat channel, there is nothing in-game currently providing a benefit to being in a guild. When I first started TOR, I had a friend list and a channel and that’s basically what a guild is now.

    Guilds need an identity and purpose. There are basic (well basic as in they are in all other games) tools that guilds should have access to. Banks, calendars, customization, etc…

    Guild levels/guild reputation I personally never had issue with. I liked the mini-quests for guilds. Getting a week-long buff after completing them, increasing drops for guild-runs is good. Or increasing Valor gains as a team. If the game rewards you for playing WITH teammates rather than FOR teammates, that’s a good thing. Anything that increases interaction for groups, while providing personal and guild gains, is a good thing. When you only provide personal gain without the group interaction, then the guild loses.

    Plus, let’s be honest. There are many games on that hill now and people are moving around. Finding quality members is much harder today than it was even 2 years ago as everyone’s expectations have changed.

    • Maybe this is where we disagree, but I dislike the idea that there should be any reward or benefit to joining a guild, apart from the camaraderie and coordination natural to being in an organized group. If you add individual benefits of any kind, people join for what they personally can get, rather than joining for how they can help and benefit the team or larger whole.

      I’m not sure buffs or special gains are really necessary; belonging should be and largely is enough reward in itself. Think of the unexpected consequences. If guild Ops runs had extra loot, for instance, guilds would quickly start receiving applicants who only want to raid for the extra loot while not particularly caring about fitting in to the larger culture or helping out their teammates in non-raiding scenarios.

      What guilds need to succeed are better tools to aid communication and coordination, nothing more.

      • Guilds need “stuff” to do together, that is the point of a guild leveling system and the rewards tied to it. Guilds provide NO comraderie or coordination if they have little to do together.

        I would like to see this game give guilds “stuff” to do as a guild above and beyond operations, flashpoints, and leveling. Guild leveling is a great idea, it may just need to evolve and improve..go to a slightly different place than other games have gone with it. But in my opinion, there needs to be more developer driven guild content.

      • I agree with you in that the individual focus is too strong in some games. Where I think my point was lost is that a guild should benefit, as a guild, for activities. If completing quests/content as a guild, provided guild-wide rewards that would be something.

        Like guild-wide buffs if 75% of the group is from the guild. Like consuming a potion from a guildmate would be better than getting it from a stranger. Like a guild portal to an instance or outdoor location(Rift did this well). Like a guild house. Guild-only instances with a story attached? (Kingdom of Loathing has this)

        My thinking is that the more content you do with the same people, the more you want to do stuff with those people.

  12. Major Zech'thul says:

    People always talk about how everyone want to be able to customize your armor with dyes or packs or whatever. Any chance bioware will implement a system where your guild will pick a design logo and colors (ala tabards in another game) and then that being able to effect the color of your armor? Option to turn off in the preferences.

  13. Will they improve on the “Dressing Room” feature? to be able to zoom in or have a slightly better resolution while it is up, also, I would like to be able to move it to the side so i can try on more than just one thing at a time. I feel that it is annoying when it pops up in the center of the screen and i can not move it.

    Either in game or out of game, will we have a character re-customization area? such as a barber or what have you.

    Also, it seems to me that there are really no male jedi/sith companions. Not that it matters at the moment but it would be nice perhaps in the future to add one or two here and there. Xalek is the only one that is male and he is not even a romance-able character. I guess just wondering for those few that are female jedi/sith.

    What is up with the bar tender on hutta? in the hutt palace there is one scruffy looking bar keep that sounds like an imperial commander. . .just wondering what that was all about.

    Will there be MORE customizations for all of our companions? it is not that important but it would be nice in the future.

  14. Guilds are, and should remain, primarily a social experience. Anything they can add to enhance communication and coordination among members is great. Calendars, banks and home bases/ships all do this. Guild leveling and perks do not.

    One question I’d like asked is if it would be possible to allow guilds to span both factions. Everyone I know is playing both sides at least occasionally. It would be nice to have the guild chat include all your guildies no matter what faction they’re on. Again, this would improve our ability to communicate, coordinate and strengthen that social experience.

    • Lady Republic says:

      Interesting thought – though I’m sure lore-wise, it comes up with the same issue as why certain classes are restricted to just one faction or the other. But it could be fun to think about how you’d set up a cross-faction guild within the existing lore.

    • I have not made end game Eternity vault yet, but isnt that advertized as cross-faction? I still have yet to understand the lack of cross-faction email and chatting, as Han Solo did trading for Imperials and Republic early in his career. Thats how he rescued Chewbacca. Soo yeah, why not cross faction guilds.

  15. First of all, thx for the oportunity to share some thoughts here.

    I would like to ask, if, they consider to drop all the green and blue gear, and only focuse on the modgear. It’s a great feature, and gives SWTOR something unique.

    And when will we be able to move stats bonus, to the social gear, that will fit to the propper armor with the propper class.
    That would give a huge variaty in looks. And again make SWTOR more unique

  16. I have just one question:

    when is Bioware planning to actually launch the game?
    this paid beta is taking way too long…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *