Council Chambers: No “I” In Guild
Council Chambers is all about the ins and outs of guild leadership in Star Wars: The Old Republic. Each week, we’ll look at running and managing a guild through good times, bad times and everything in between.
First, let me say – from a spelling perspective, yes of course I know there is an “I” in guild. The title comes from the famous expression of, “No “I” in team” – we’ll overlook the fact that there is in fact a “me” there. Ahem.
Last week, we talked about the Guild Summit and what kinds of questions you’d maybe be interested in learning more about. While I got a lot of feedback about the game as a whole – which likely will not be addressed at the Summit, as it is specifically and solely about and for guilds – I’ll definitely keep my ears open for news on any of the topics our readers asked about, as well as doing my best to cover the event as a whole.
In the feedback and comments from that entry though, a very interesting – and sometimes passionate – debate ensued about what a guild actually is, what it should provide to its members, what its members should provide to it, and all those issues related to those things. It got me to thinking about this topic, and what guild membership really means to people. So this week, let’s look at what a guild actually is, and how that matches up to what players think it ought to be?
On the most basic level, a guild is a social network and a chat line. In fact, in TOR as the guild system currently stands, one could argue that’s actually all it is. (More will be coming though, or so I hear!) There is no leveling system, guild bank, experience boost, special gear, even a device or logo to visually link members of the same organization. Now – there are ways that guilds can provide these things in game, but they do so by finding creative ways to implement them. For instance, a lot of guilds will provide assistance on flashpoint runs or helping to gear lower-level members; not quite the same as a true experience boost, but something that can definitely be helpful – especially when compared to the mixed bag of looking in general for a group. Other guilds implement primitive “guild banks” by rolling a low level alt and having that character store items for the guild members to request or contribute. In our guild’s case, we have a “guild bank” toon that the guild leader controls, and where we maintain a list of his current inventory through our forums. Nowhere near as easy to use as a true in-game guild bank, but better than nothing. However, all of these features require the assistance and cooperation of the players. They are not provided by the game mechanic itself.
Other gaming systems provide a lot more benefits to guild members than just the basics of a social network and community. Many games include features such as guild housing, which is typically some sort of instanced area available only to guild members, or guild banks, where members can store, donate, or retrieve useful goods and access can be controlled by rank. In other systems, there are guild quests, where guilds get extra perqs or rewards for completing them – this can be extra experience or money awarded to members, or to the guild itself, or tokens used to buy guild rewards. Finally, some systems have a guild leveling system, where members gain special advantages and benefits to their character from the guild’s leveling system. These can include benefits to individual members such as a shorter quick travel cooldown, higher rates of return on gathering professions, extra experience leveling, or unique gearing or vanity items that they can purchase for their characters.
What’s Good For The Guild…
Herein lies the rub: last week, I wrote specifically about the way in which a combination of a guild leveling system and a guild finder tool really devastated a lot of guilds. That led to a lengthy discussion among readers about whether these features – which do seem to advantage the individual player over the guild itself – are good for the game or bad for the game overall. It brought up some very interesting points worth considering in further depth. So, let’s take a look at some of these:
Guild Finders Are Good: The up side to these tools is obvious – for players that do not care to participate in server forums, official forums, or other out-of-game guild search tools, this makes finding a guild very easy. Just open up the guild finder tool, enter in some details, and poof! You may have hundreds of guilds to search through and find one that works, all without ever having to leave the actual game window.
Guild Finders Are Bad: The down side to these may be a little less obvious – and for that matter, may only be a down side to guild leaders and members really looking for other committed participants. By making it so easy to find guilds, it becomes a lot easier to leave a guild and keep hopping until you find one that makes you happy. This may be a good thing for the individual player, but it can be devastating for guilds. The frequent turnover can hinder Operations progress as groups struggle to fill slots, hurt morale for the members that stay, or just prevent people from really getting to know each other if it seems like people don’t stick around very long.
Guild Leveling Is Good: The best argument in favor of these are that they – and presumably the rewards they provide players – give players more options, which is always a win. Who would ever say that having to wait longer for a quick travel or taking less damage from dying is a bad thing, right? Players like presents, and like that sense of accomplishment that comes from unlocking something challenging; offering additional incentives through a guild leveling system just adds to that feeling and theoretically offers solo players or non-guilded people a reason to consider joining a guild.
Guild Leveling Is Bad: Now, I’m speaking as a guild leader here – so take what I say with a grain of salt. However, having some real life friends that are serial soloists and really don’t care to engage in the social experiment of guilds at all, I dislike the idea of creating a system where players are passively punished for not joining a guild. If you don’t want to be in a guild, you shouldn’t have to be – and when it comes down to getting increased gathers from being in a guild versus solo, well, that really pushes even people who dislike guilds into joining one, if only for the benefits. If you don’t enjoy the grand social experiment of a guild, it’s better to continue flying solo; being forced to join something a player doesn’t really enjoy is bad for both the player and the guild they join.
A Better Way
It seemed liked a lot of people agreed that having some sort of guild perq is helpful for guilds and players. However, it’s the form of that perq that takes careful effort and thought. As a few people suggested, guild perqs should be something that doesn’t create incentives for a player to join and participate, then leave or go inactive once they have the item/perq in question (for instance, heirloom gear). Rather, they should provide things that help both guild and player – so for instance, providing a rally point or guild summon that enables you to bring the guild, or guild members in an Ops group, to a specific place en masse is a great feature that benefits both guild and player.
The Real Question
The real question here ultimately boils down to, “What is a guild”? A lot of the responses seemed to break down along one of two lines. One is the “A guild is there to serve the player”, and the other is the “A guild is there to be served by its players”. The answer to that question seemed to shape a lot of commenter perspectives on the merits or flaws of all the other guild incentive systems. For those that believe a guild is there simply to serve its members, then all of the issues raised with guild leveling systems, member inactivity, problems with perqs, and all of the concerns raised shouldn’t matter. The guild is there to meet player needs, and they do so through levels and providing the player with goods. For the other school of thought, the reverse is true – members contribute time, effort, and energy into a team project and shouldn’t expect to gain personal profit outside of the ability to participate in team activities and reap the rewards from that. (In many games, guilds provide the best opportunities for advanced raiding and the rewards from that because of the coordination element.)
If you compare these ideas to real life, it’s a fairly interesting dichotomy. Some people view guilds like a team sport – along with all of the, “No I in team” philosophy and emphasis on being part of the group rather than more special than the others. If you’ve ever been in a team sport, or for that matter in the military (because drill sergeants love to emphasize your very particular lack of “being special”), then you’re already familiar with this mindset – love it or hate it. There’s a reason it is there though, and not just to beat up on individual self-confidence. Creating the idea of being part of a greater entity creates a lot of loyalty and devotion to your other members in the team/unit/squad/etc – even the ones you don’t like. Without that, there’s a good chance you might leave that jerk in your squad behind when you duck for cover in combat, or refuse to block a tackle for your quarterback if you think he’s an idiot. Part of the whole team concept (and in many cases, shared team misery) is to really develop and instill that idea of being in a group, all parts and pieces of the same organization – and specifically, fostering that willingness to help each other, even when you don’t necessarily like the other in question. If you’ve ever been in one of the teamwork guilds that does advanced operations or PvP, you’re probably familiar with this too – you take on tasks you might be ambivalent about or not happy about, in order to better the group and help attain the group’s success. In games like TOR, this might mean sitting out on a raid so someone else can go, or respeccing to a role that wasn’t your first choice because it’s what your guild currently needs. (In our case, see “tanks”.)
However, not everyone is comfortable with the idea of being just another spoke in the wheel. There’s a fairly significant perspective in the gaming community – and one that seems to be growing – that says if a player is already paying their subscription fee in the first place, why should they have to fulfill these teamwork requirements and not get more that directly benefits them? In this mindset, guilds are there in the game as just another way of providing more features, options, and services to members, rather than the other way around. Especially in a game context where Operations or raids have become pick-up-group friendly and this content is no longer exclusive to guilds only, more and more players are expecting more from their guilds than just a place to raid. Even moreso, they’re willing to give less to get the same gains that for them, they can earn in a pick up group without all of the additional work or baggage. So in this viewpoint, team isn’t good enough – guilds need to earn members and provide for them, not just take what the members can give for the team’s effort.
What do you think? What should guilds provide, when it comes down to it? Are they social entities to provide friends and folks to talk to or hang out with while playing? Should they be providing specific, in-game benefits to members? What is reasonable for a guild to expect from its members? Tell us what you think a guild out to be and provide!